A dog laying down in the middle of a room with a radio and headphones.

Does A Radio Help Keep Dogs Calm?

When we feel stressed, going for a walk or listening to music are some of the most recommended ways to help us calm down. We already know our dogs love walking, but what about music? For example, does a radio help keep dogs calm?

Leaving a radio or television on for your dog in stressful situations, such as during fireworks or a thunderstorm, can help distract them from the noise and calm them down. If you’ve got music on the radio, research suggests that genres such as classical, soft rock, and reggae especially have a calming effect on dogs. 

How To Tell When Your Dog Is Stressed

Dogs may feel stressed when faced with an unfamiliar experience. For pups that are sensitive to noise, the sound of thunder or fireworks can be pretty scary, and their body language will oftentimes reveal their anxiety. A dog that is stressed may:

  • Flatten their ears 
  • Tuck their tail
  • Open their eyes wide 
  • Keep their head down low
  • Crouch 
  • Remain motionless or tremble 
  • Whimper or growl 
  • Yawn, pant, or smack their lips
  • Seek comfort under or behind furniture

Why Does The Radio Calm Dogs Down?

A dog laying down next to a radio.
This dog seems pretty relaxed.

Research conducted on dogs that were placed in a kennel at an animal shelter found that music reduced the frequency of stress-induced behaviors. Having the radio on during a stressful situation that involves loud noises can provide a welcome distraction for your dog. It can also give them something other than the stressful sound to focus on. 

In humans, certain types of music that play at around sixty beats per minute can synchronize with the brain. This encourages the generation of alpha brain waves that are produced during conscious relaxation. Experts suggest that music can change the way our brain works just as much as medication can. 

Does The Playlist Matter?

That depends on the situation. For a dog that is terrified by the sudden boom of thunder or fireworks, having any ambient sound on to drown out the noise will be helpful in reducing their stress. However, research has repeatedly shown us that dogs experiencing other types of stress, such as being introduced to an unfamiliar environment or a new companion may benefit most from soft instrumental melodies such as classical music. Dr. Susan Wagner, the author of the book titled Through A Dog’s Ear found that 85% of dogs in a home environment and 70-75% of those in kennels would lie down and go to sleep when classical music was played to them. A more recent study, however, argues that the benefits of classical music are short-lived. They argue that genres such as soft rock and reggae may provide a more lasting calming effect.

Unlike a playlist containing an intentionally curated list of songs, we have no control over what plays on the radio. The genres of music being played may vary. Any dog listening to the radio would have the additional stimulus of having to process all the voices they hear in between songs too. There is little evidence to suggest this is necessarily a bad thing, but its benefits are controversial. 

Will The Radio Help To Reduce Separation Anxiety?

A study isolated dogs in a quiet room away from their owners. During the first round, the dogs remained in complete silence for 30 minutes. Their behaviors were recorded before being returned to their owners. 

Then, the same dogs were again isolated in a room that had classical music playing for 30 minutes and then returned to their owners. In the final round of isolation, they had an audiobook playing in the background for 30 minutes. The dogs seemed to enjoy the music more than they did the audiobook. However, the researchers did not find any significant benefit to having either sound playing in the room. 

If your dog becomes agitated when you’re away from home, it is likely due to separation anxiety. For the average dog staying alone at home without any new sounds to stress it out, having the radio on may not be significantly beneficial. Although there may not be any harm in leaving the radio on for your dog, it is possible that they may actually prefer some peace and quiet instead. Additionally, there are more effective techniques involving behavioral therapy that are proven remedies to stress induced by separation anxiety that might offer a more long-term solution.

What Else Can You Do To Calm Your Dog?

Outside of tuning into a good radio station, there are other ways to remedy your dog’s stress:

  • Be there for them
  • Provide a calm, safe space
  • Use a calming spray 
  • Offer a new toy or puzzle
  • Try a calming vest
  • Behavioral therapy

In Conclusion: Radio? Maybe. Music? Yes!

All the evidence points to the idea that the benefits of auditory stimulation for your dog really depends on what they are listening to. If you’re in a pinch and you just want to drown out any scary sounds, then turning on the radio may do the trick. But to achieve maximum relaxation for your pup, experts suggest using a playlist containing music of certain genres such as classical, soft rock, and reggae or species-specific music created just for dogs.

So, how do you plan to keep your dog calm? Will you still use the radio or something else? Let us know in the comments below!

Dr. Umaya Gunaratne (DVM)
Dr. Umaya Gunaratne (DVM)
Umaya Gunaratne is a veterinarian plus dog and cat mum currently pursuing her PhD in small animal cardiology. Her field of interest is degenerative mitral valve disorders in small breed dogs, but her passion lies in bridging the gap between academia and the real world. She enjoys helping pet parents understand the research-backed science behind raising their fur kids. She spends her free time playing football, clicker-training her cat, Ria, and spending quality time with her many houseplants.