Top of the Pups: These are the best radio stations for dogs left home alone
September 20, 2022
Compared to the dark times of 2020 and 2021, our canine companions are finding themselves left home alone more often. And for the 3.2 million dogs who joined families during lockdown, this may come as a big shock.
From boredom, depression and separation anxiety, some dogs can find being home alone tough. In fact, the RSPCA estimates up to 85 percent of dogs may be struggling to cope.
Just like with people, music can affect how dogs think, feel and act. But instead of opting for the same playlist every time – which dogs can get bored of very quickly - putting on the radio can introduce variety into their day.
So what is the best music to play your pooch?
To find out, we analysed 25 of the UK’s most popular radio stations over a 12-hour-period.
Obviously we can’t ask the pups themselves, but studies suggest that dogs prefer a variety of genres to combat boredom, songs with low dynamic range to avoid startling them and have a tempo (bpm) like their own heartbeats. With this information, we ranked the stations.
Top of the Pups is Smooth FM, scoring an impressive 7.3/10 – the highest of the 25 radio stations in our study.
Across a 12-hour period studied, Smooth FM played songs with a low average energy score (3.9/10), signalling tunes didn’t have many sudden shifts that might cause stress and anxiety.
The station’s playlist also has a lot of genre diversity (8.3/10), minimising the effects of habituation which can leave dogs bored and disengaged – and more likely to take out this frustration on your furniture. It also nods to the fact that dogs having their own individual music preferences, as identified by researchers at the University of Glasgow. Who knew?
Smooth FM’s playlist also featured songs with an average tempo closest to that of a dog’s heartbeat (9.6/10). Research suggests that dogs respond best to music with a Bpm (beats per minute) similar to their own heart rates - around 60-160 bpm depending on the breed. This mimics the feeling of relaxation puppies seek from their mothers' heartbeat when snuggling into them.
Don't fancy Smooth FM?
Runner’s up are BBC Radio 1, scoring 6.7/10 overall. The station gets a perfect 10/10 for the variety of genres it plays in a day, together with a good score for the average tempo of its playlist (7.3/10) and low energy score (2.9/10).
Making up the rest of the top five are Heart 80s (6.2/10), Kiss FM (5.8/10) and Magic Soul (5.7/10) - all scoring above average in our study.
What's a no-go for the doggos?
We should think twice before putting on Radio X (2.4/10), Planet Rock (2.6/10), Virgin Radio (2.7/10) and Absolute Classic Rock (also 2.7/10) which performed poorly. These stations’ tunes featured tempos in excess of a dog’s heartbeat, within the same genre (mostly rock) and had high energy which could induce anxiety.
According to Anna Webb, Dog Behaviour Expert and host of A DOG’S LIFE podcast:
“Leaving the radio on when you leave your dog is a good habit. It provides them with auditory stimulation to combat boredom, it desensitises them to being left alone through familiarity, and the radio’s constant noise deflects outside stimuli that could trigger your dog to bark or become anxious. But for this method to work, it’s important owners follow these steps, says Anna. Make sure to “play the radio when you’re home too so your dog finds comfort in the music and doesn’t just associate it with you leaving”.
We also spoke to Karlien Heryman, Head of Pets at Pets at Home:
“Dogs have much better hearing than us, so pick a quieter level than you would do if you were listening. It’s also important to remember that dogs are social animals, and most will have a very strong bond with their owner, so it’s understandable that they might struggle to be left on their own. Some pets will get bored when alone and may turn to chewing your sofa or taking your rug apart to burn off energy. That’s why, even with music, you should make sure to give them lots of physical and mental stimulation while you’re with them, and leave plenty of boredom-busting puzzles, toys and treats to keep them entertained when you’re out, too.”
So next time you’re heading off to work and want to make sure your four legged friend isn’t distressed or bored, pop on Smooth FM at a lower volume.
We curate music for humans too, you know. Read more on our behavioural science-led approach to music for businesses here.