study shows effects of different types of music on dogs / music to help anxious dogs relax / Perfect cocker spaniel (C) Dog blog about English cocker spaniels, dog behaviour, diet, nutrition, health, puppy tips (C) Natalia Ashton

The sound of music. Study shows, our pooches have their preferences too.

I came across a curious study the other day and wanted to share it here. I have mentioned the effect of music on my pups in the past, so it was interesting to see some research into the subject.

The work was conducted in 2020 and examined several previous studied that involved dogs of various breeds and age groups placed in different environments.

The first interesting bit of the study for me was the possible difference between breeds and their physical characteristics suggesting that dogs with pointy ears might perceive any music sounds differently compared to dogs with floppy ears. Which, of course, makes sense, but not something I’d think of immediately.

The second discovery was about the type of music. Several studies showed that dogs preferred classical music to rock or pop music. The dogs exposed to the classical music began acting more calm, seemed more relaxed and less prone to barking, and their heart rate appeared reduced.

On the other hand, rock music increased excitement, became more vocal and showed increased in stress hormone levels.

Does it mean, we could use some soft classical music as another way to reduce anxiety and stress in our dogs? Absolutely. Just bear in mind that you may need to change your play list every 5-7 days to maintain the positive effects.

I guess it’s time for a drink and some Chopin now.

Signs how to tell if a dog is happy, sad or stressed / dog body language / English cocker spaniel blog / Perfect cocker spaniel (C) Beyond the Doughnut / tips, advice on spaniel grooming, nutrition, diet, care, puppy tips (C) Natalia Ashton

How to tell if your dog is happy or sad & ways of bringing joy into their lives

When we know that our dogs are happy, we feel happier too. Even though we don’t speak the same language, dogs have plenty of signs and ways to express their feelings to us. We just need to read them.

A happy dog has a soft dreamy gaze and relaxed eyelids, his lips are loose, the forehead is wrinkle-free, his body is completely relaxed, the ears are floppy and the tail is raised to the mid-level and wagging, often so much that their entire behind seems to be wiggling and dancing.

A happy dog will seek engagement with you by greeting you with great enthusiasm, initiating fun time, play bowing or bringing a toy.

They will also enjoy their walks and meal times. And blissfully snooze for hours often stretching out on their backs to take most of your sofa.

And what about a stressed dog? Surprisingly, one of the first signs is an exaggerated yawn. A stressed pooch will have tension in his body, try to avoid eye contact, have enlarged pupils, raised eyebrows or tension in his forehead and ears, which he is likely to keep pulled back or erected and pointy (depending on a breed and situation).

The tail of a stressed dog may look limp and low.

Other signs include lip licking (especially if the stress is caused by fear), drooling, tight mouth, tensed body that may start trembling (some dogs also like to “shake it off” to release any tension), inability to settle, scratching, panting, vocalisation and reactivity to any sign of movement or any sound however minor.

They may struggle to relax or fall asleep. The changes in stress hormone levels can alter dogs’ appetite and ability to digest and utilise nutrients – some dogs refuse their food completely, others may develop odd eating habits.

Stressed dogs may start to destroy the furniture or rip out carpets as their way to relieve stress through chewing, others may suddenly forget their house training habits and urinate or defecate at home instead.

How to keep your pooch happy?

Feed your dog a complete balanced diet, so his body gets all the nutrients it needs for the happy brain.

Stick to a schedule, especially if your dog is prone to anxiety.

Choose activities that suit your dog’s age to avoid overstimulation.

Have at least one walk a day and allow your pooch to run and exercise depending on his age and physical abilities.

Visit new places, especially if your dog is an adventurer and enjoys these activities.

Move to the country. According to the 2020 study published in Scientific Reports, urban dogs were more fearful and stressed than the dogs living in more natural areas

Let your dog sniff! Sniffing is such a wonderful stress relief for all dogs. It helps them to relax yet keeps the brain happily stimulated.

Use mental stimulation games – anything from sprinkling a handful of kibble in the grass for the dog to find to using puzzle toys to taking a few agility lessons. Dogs love to learn, so let them do it! Learning and exploring in a safe environment plus plenty of praise helps a dog to build his confidence and feel positive towards changing environments and situations. Remember to use positive reward-based methods of training – not punishment of any kind.

Let your pooch enjoy a safe chew or a stuffed toy – licking and chewing are really relaxing.

Don’t skip on annual vet checks and preventative treatments. A healthy pooch is a happy pooch!

Spent some quality time with your dog every day – playing, cuddling, walking – anything that makes both of you happy.

Give your dog a massage. Many canines enjoy these touches and find them extremely relaxing.

Play a few tunes that dogs find relaxing. A study published in January 2020 showed that classical music has a calming effect on dogs, particularly those in stressful environments

Learn your dog’s habits – not every dog likes to be touched by strangers, some would rather share their time with people than dogs, others would prefer to avoid certain pooches or places.

Stay happy. Several studies pointed out that dogs synchronise their stress hormone levels with the ones of their owners (also known as emotional contagion), especially if you suffer from the long-term stress.

Fred, chocolate cocker spaniel puppy in the snow photographed by Natalia Ashton (C) Perfect cocker spaniel / Copyrighted / English cocker spaniel guide to how to choose, find, raise a puppy, grooming and hand-stripping english cocker spaniel, cocker spaniel diet, nutrition, health advice

Does a cocker need a coat?

This weather is no joke, so I got an adorable photo of Fred and his irresistible bum as a part of the “let’s keep smiling” package deal.

And talking of packages… Do you ever wonder if your dog needs to wrap up? Or got him to wear a coat already?

Most cocker spaniels can be pretty weather-proof even in sub-zero temperatures. Their double coat serves them well.

However, some dogs may benefit from a stylish top up if…
… they are young & have to be outside for longer then their typical short walk (a two month old pup would only need 10 minutes, so will be fine playing in the snow without a coat or jumper);
… they are senior & developed sensitivity to cold or suffer from arthritis;
… they are recovering from an illness or have an underlying health condition, for example underactive thyroid;
… the pooch is over or underweight;
… the dog was neutered – the overproduction of gonadotrophic hormones caused by the op affects thyroid stimulating hormone – and the gland function. Thyroid helps the body maintain its temperature. If this function is altered, so is the body’s response to the temperature changes;
… the coat of a cocker was clipped, which removes the undercoat and also makes the resulting coat attract and trap the moisture;
… you walk in a thick wet snow that can cover the fur with huge snowballs and make your spaniel uncomfortable.

Shivering is a sign that your pooch is cold and needs to be taken to a warm place as soon as possible.

The coat needs to be comfortable for your cocker. Remember that dogs see anything that covers and presses on their back as a possible dominant object. Make sure that the coat fits well, let the dog sniff it, be gentle when putting it on and whenever possible – take your spaniel for a walk straight away. No dog will ever enjoy wearing a coat but they can learn to associate a coat with a positive experience (i.e. a walk) & accept it in anticipation of something great and fun.

 

Photo credit: Fred photographed by me