Music and the Brain (in dogs)

Sebastian, the smart and musical chocolate Labrador

I have often wondered how does music impact the brain of dogs. Sebastian, my chocolate Labrador, is now 12 years old. He started listening to music when I first brought him home from the San Diego Humane Society when he was 8 weeks old. His day is not complete without him getting his daily dose of Beethoven, Chopin, Bach, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Clementi, Kabalevsky, Grieg, Gurlitt, Tchaikovsky, etc.etc. I would say that his floppy and velvety ears pretty much heard and listened to all the famous and standard piano repertoire. He has also gotten accustomed to hearing orchestral arrangements, including solo cello and violin music.

Do the benefits of music education as shown in human research translate to dogs? Research has shown that musically trained individuals “develop strong neural connections, have more grey matter, better information processing, higher IQ, better memory and retention, as well as better motor coordination”

Although  (Johann) Sebastian (Bach), and his brother Schubert (yes, I named my dogs after famous composers) are not getting any formal music lessons (:-))), I am truly convinced that them listening to music every day for at least 6-8 hours daily made them smarter than any other dogs I have known.

On numerous occasions, Sebastian would even express his annoyance when he doesn’t like what he is hearing (read: a piano student kept making mistakes on a particular piece during lessons). From his corner spot in the family room, I would hear him pace back and forth when a student is not playing well during piano lessons, and he would even bark! I thought I was imagining things when on one occasion, my sister came for a visit and blurted out her version of Fur Elise. She played several wrong notes and every time she pressed a wrong key, Sebastian would bark. It happened to her and other students!

Schubert lets you know when he has heard enough music for the day.

I think Sebastian loves Beethoven and  Schubert ( a border collie) loves Chopin. One time, a student was playing a Chopin nocturne so well Schubert came out from the kitchen and rested his head on the student’s lap until the piece was almost finished. Schubert would lie or sit under the baby grand piano when I am playing or when somebody is playing slow, soothing music. On the flip side, he doesn’t like listening to passages played over and over during my practice times. He would remove my right hand or left hand (depending on which sided is he positioned) when I would practice incessantly. Perhaps it was his way of telling me to stop and I should pay attention to him!




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