Terry Woodford, a songwriter and producer, has developed music utilizing the sound of heartbeats to help anxious pups calm down.
Once upon a time, our ancestors were banging sticks and rocks without even realizing they were making music. Our brain has a sense for detecting music in an odd way. It can relax, calm, and even ease pain. But, what about animals? How do they interpret music? According to the Washington Post, music can play an important role when it comes to unnerving worked up dogs. In fact, many shelters around the world use "canine lullabies" to soothe an emotionally distressed pup. However, the origin of these dog-friendly tunes is one that began quite unexpectedly.
Terry Woodford might not be a household name, but he is far from unknown. Better known for his behind-the-scenes work as a songwriter, producer, and engineer, Woodford has worked with many greats including The Temptations, The Supremes, and the Commodores just to name a few. His most notable song “Scratchin” can be heard sampled by Run-DMC, Grandmaster Flash, and countless others. These days, Woodford is making music for an untapped market: dogs.
Originally intended to soothe crying infants, Canine Lullabies began as a challenge. While judging at an arts festival in Huntsville, Alabama, Woodford met a woman who worked at a day-care as a recreational therapist. The woman challenged Woodford to create music that catered to children.
At first, Woodford took this challenge with a condescending tone. However, he rose to the challenge and recreated the traditional children’s lullabies. Woodford thought by incorporating what sounded like a heartbeat, babies would be reminded of being held. It worked when tested at hospital nurseries and newborn homes.
"If we're in a chaotic environment, we're drawn towards structure and order," said Woodford. "So these songs, the lullabies, are very simply structured. And then I think not only the babies, but also the animals are drawn to the human compassion in the singer's voice, and the familiarity of the heartbeat." Once called Heartbeat Lullabies, Canine Lullabies can be heard being played to dogs all around the world, from Britain to Australia. According to the Chicago Tribune, these lullabies help reduce barking and generally lower the stress levels of their canine constituencies. People who have cared for these dogs have given it their seal of approval as well.
"I was looking for aids to help calm dogs arriving into a high-volume, high-anxiety and incredibly stressful environment," wrote Lisa Morrissey, a dog trainer and behaviorist, in an email according to the Chicago Tribune. "I have found the shelter dogs respond and calm faster listening to 'Canine Lullabies,' versus other calming/separation anxiety music." According to a 2017 study, that tested the impact of a variety of musical styles on the behavior and barking of shelter dogs, classical music encourages relaxation and quiet, while heavy metal does largely the opposite. A 2012 study echoed those findings.
It was not until Woodford went to visit a shelter for himself that he saw the true impact of his music. "I'm walking down the aisle, and all the dogs are jumping and barking, and [the shelter employee] had an old boom box in the corner," said Woodford to the Post. "She turned it on, and within 15 seconds every dog laid down in their kennel, and it freaked me out."
With the canine lullabies sub-genre slowly gaining momentum, we wonder if more artists will follow suit. As the pet industry continuing to grow, we hope to see more doggo inspired products and entertainment.