In a blatant attempt at populism we explore the relationship between mutts and music.
You don't have to often go online to realise that the internet is obsessed with them, that social media thrives on them and that they feature in a million memes. Yup, no matter what you're looking for, you're always only a couple of clicks away from a YouTube video of a pooch being cute or a canine near death experience as some unsuspecting hound turns tricks solely to satisfy sadistic human humour.
In 2017, more than half of the 100 most popular posts on awwreddit (WARNING: don't go there if you fear for your sanity) featured dogs. True, back in the mists of time it was once cats, but the latest data shows dog related videos have recently tripled, easily beating their feline friends, who could only command 12% of the top hundred views on reddit. Equally, according to data from Instagram, 22 of the 50 most followed pet accounts are dog-related.
Dog mashups not only come in the shape of performing pet pratfalls but as aids to music videos. Harry Styles, Fall Out Boy and not unsurprisingly, Pup, have all incorporated dogs into their video creations. Probably the most OTT is Mayer Hawthorne’s ‘Her Favorite Song’ where the singer is over-shadowed by the overdressed canine capers of his co-stars. Personally, the more I watch, the worse it gets at just about every level!
But if you like to mix your hound with your harmonies what would your average mongrel musically prefer?
"Would the Pet Shop Boys would be in any self-respecting canine’s collection although perhaps they'd prefer Bow Wow Wow or Jarvis Cocker Spaniel."
In simple terms, dogs dislike stridency. No fans of Iron Maiden here, but instead research suggests that canines prefer, and will be soothed by, classical music. However, other work, involving the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has pointed out that whilst that may be true, such a preferences are not long-lasting. They found that whilst classical music had an initially calming effect on dogs, after a few days they became bored ( less Bach and more bite maybe). Instead, its reggae and soft rock that emerge as a dogs’ two favourite genres. Apparently, a little Bob Marley reduces stress, barking and heart rates.
The SPCA’s head of research, Gilly Mendes Ferreira, states the reason for this is because “those genres have a rhythm that is similar to the dogs’ own heart rate. When a puppy is feeling stressed it will snuggle into its mother and use her heartbeat as relaxation, so this music mimics that.”
Interestingly, there is little evidence to suggest that music designed specially for dogs has any greater impact than other music. However, this didn't stop Amman Ahmed and Ricardo Henriquez and their dog-oriented music company doing well. Their organisation, 'Relax My Dog', reached an audience of 10 million users a month, within a very short time of being founded in 2011.
So, if we know what dogs like to listen to, can they also contribute to music? Many people say that their dogs howl at particular tunes and the internet is littered with ‘singing’ dog examples.
Research suggests that dogs howling is a hark back to their wolverine ancestry and, like wolves, when howling they can recognise the pitch of a tune and deliberately seek to ‘sing’ at a different level. They also hear higher frequencies than humans which must be why all dogs have a strong liking for Barry Gibb of the BeeGees.
Finally, this ability to listen and respond to singing, English composer Edward Elgar found particularly beneficial. His mate, the organist of Hereford Cathedral had a dog called Dan. Dan would attend choir practice with Elgar and his master, and would growl at choristers who sang out of tune, a trait that Elgar greatly admired.
So, the next time your dog turns into a howling wolf just think of him or her as the next potential winner of The Voice.