Karen B. London
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Singing Around Our Dogs
How do they react?

You know how everybody says that they can’t sing and then you hear them and they’re really not that bad? Well, that’s not how it is with me. I’m truly dreadful, and when people hear me sing anything, even Happy Birthday, they probably think I’m kidding. Even dogs don’t enjoy my musical moments.

I was in the car last week with Marley, singing along to the radio, and he began to whimper. I was concerned that his harness was bothering him, so I pulled over to check the straps, and he seemed just fine. Then I kept driving (and singing) and he whimpered again. I checked on him again, and then all was well. Puzzled, but pleased that he seemed okay, I kept driving. Though I had stopped singing by that point, I didn’t make the connection between my silence and his silence until later.

I was at home, singing again, and my son said, “Mom, don’t sing! Look what you’re doing to Marley!” He had his ears back, his brow was furrowed so that he looked worried, his whole body was tense, and he was looking away. You could practically see the cartoon bubble over his head with the words, “Help! How can I make it stop?” In this picture with me singing, you can see that he looks less than thrilled.

Many dogs join in with a howl when people are singing. Others ignore it or walk away or whine. Still others pay extra attention, perhaps either enjoying it or trying to figure out if any relevant information is in the vocalization. How does your dog react when you sing?


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

Photo by Evan Hofstetter

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Submitted by Xultar | May 25 2012 |

Y dogs join in. It's like a choir.

Submitted by hikerdeb | May 25 2012 |

I live by myself (except for the dog) and I love music, so I sing all the time when I'm working around the house. It has no effect whatsoever on my dog, because I've been doing it for as long as she has known me (seven years). To her it's just background noise -- some odd thing that this human does.

I think dogs who react to humans singing are probably responding because it's unusual -- a novel stimulus. But after a while, they become habituated to the sound and just sleep through it.

The only time my dog takes notice of my singing is if I try to hit a ridiculously high note (like the Queen of the Night's aria in Mozart's "The Magic Flute"). At that extreme end of the scale, the sound you produce is more like squeaking than singing, so it does capture the dog's attention.

Submitted by Anonymous | May 25 2012 |

That is hilarious! I am a trained singer. I adopted my dog 3.5 years ago, she is an adorable pit mix named Charley. I sing around the house quite frequently and when I do she either walks into the other room or lays down and lowers her head and scowls. I have always wondered about her response and I am starting to think that their ears are sensitive to the tone for some reason or another...Nice post!

Submitted by Suzanne | May 25 2012 |

My dogs hate for me to sing. All four of them. My husband used to hold our oldest dog on his lap (she is a big girl) and sing with her and she would sing along, but with me it is the same as you described with Marley. It upsets them. When they have a group howl I sometimes join in, and that seems to be ok with them.

Submitted by Sandy | May 25 2012 |

My dog loves music. I sing in a couple of groups at church, and as soon as the music starts he settles down, only getting restless when we have to discuss parts of the songs. At home if he is restless I start singing to him (I don't have a wonderful voice, I attend a small church and any voice is welcome),and he settles right now. My other dog doesn't seem to mind music, it just doesn't have the save effect.

Submitted by Ell-Bee | May 25 2012 |

I have two SCWTs one who is an outgoing people oriented, carefree, charisma loaded love bug and the other who is a skittish, super-alert one family loyalty hound. Another astounding difference between the two, same age, same gender different parents pair is their interest in my singing. Carl, (the carefree) could not care less. Barkley, (mr. nervous) is spellbound. So wacky, so wierd, so wonderful. Go figure.

Submitted by Ellen | May 25 2012 |

That's so funny! Both of my goldens would behave strangely when I sang -- and I was usually rehearsing for musical theatre performances, so I'm not terrible. :-)

Ruby would pant and wag and paw at my leg and Kody would grab toys and wrestle with them or try to, ahem, mount me. After awhile, Ruby would leave the room and Kody would just stand beside me, staring at me. Sometimes he'd cry-bark.

And it wasn't that he didn't like music; He would go downstairs to "help" my husband teach drum lessons, standing right next to whoever was playing. Now why would he enjoy listening to the drums, but not the voice that had sung softly to him since puppyhood??!!

Submitted by Dogmomofthree | May 28 2012 |

I have three shelter dogs, two of which have anxious temperaments. Singing to them truly seems to help alleviate their anxieties, calm them down, and makes them happy and playful. I do have a good voice, but I think it is the music and the attention that appeals to them - not my vocal quality. Maybe Marley (the dog in Karen London's blog) might have been trying to accompany her :)?

Submitted by Pixel Blue Eyes | June 9 2012 |

I am a blogging mini schnauzer and I have two responses to singing. When my Mommy sings to me alone, I love it and it makes me get sort of sleepy or calm. However, I am afraid of the birthday song sung by a group. After four years of family birthdays, I still react by hiding or acting like something is seriously wrong. The other 3 dogs join in and sing with the humans, I cannot. Maybe it has something to do with my past as a puppy before Mommy found me. Not sure.
Love, Pixel

Submitted by guest | July 9 2013 |

I am a fourteen year old boy. I get depression and singing the song schizophrenic conversations usually helps make me feel a lot better. So I will just go outside in the middle of the night sometimes and sing it. The dogs that are out there are usually trying to sleep. But ill just sit in the lawnchair and sing from anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. I like to think of myself of having a very nice voice, but I was always wondering if the dogs liked it, or were getting annoyed or what. They like attention a lot and like for me to pet them, but I wont. So they just lay there, I'm not sure what there feelings are towards my singing though. Does it help them? do they enjoy it? Are they annoyed and either want attention or want to be left alone and sleep? I've been looking on Google and can't really find an answer. They don't come towards me or anything, just lay there and listen. Still curious aether I should go in the front yard and leave them alone or sing more in front of them. Any ideas?

Submitted by Doghatesmysinging | August 11 2013 |

When I sing, my dog turns her back to me or walks out of the room. It's sorta insulting. If we are in the car and I begin to sing, she starts licking me ...I get it....she does not like my singing!!!!!!

Submitted by Jennifer G. | November 30 2013 |

I never thought of my boyfriend as a good singer (or even a decent one, to be quite honest), but our dog Tinkerbell always seemed to LOVE when he started singing. Her pit bull tail & butt would go in to full wiggle mode & she'd get as close as she could to him. My boyfriend has the most calm, relaxed energy, so I always thought our dogs have been naturally drawn to him because of that. I always figured that's why Tinkerbell seemed to like it when he sang...she was just chiming in to celebrate calm energy!

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