Sunday, February 26, 2012

Do dogs have rhythm?

My friend Kevin just pointed me at this YouTube video, which shows a dog grooving to some guitar music.

The dog is definitely appreciating the music (and Kevin was particularly interested in the fact that he smiles while the music is playing). I, on the other hand, am curious about the fact that the dog seems to actually be moving his head in time to the music. This could just be coincidence, and the human tendency to anthropomorphize. Or the dog could be reacting to motions of the guarist off-screen. Or it could be real.

I have never seen a dog demonstrate an understanding of musical rhythm before (though I saw a parrot do so on another YouTube video). Of course dogs will howl along, but feeling the beat is something different. I can’t remember ever seeing a journal article about the rhythmic abilities of canids!


  1. My theory was that he was following the guy's hand going up and down. There's a related video where the dog is happily nodding along, then the guy starts to sing and the dog leaves.

    Here I thought cats would be harsh critics but that's just cold.

  2. Yeah, as adorable as the video is, I have to note the musician is offscreen. Also, it's possible to time music to a dogs panting rhythm so the skeptic in me would want to see at the very least a) the dog reacting to music which is recorded and not performed and b) doing so outside of the presence of humans, in other words a recording of a dog enjoying/moving to music alone in a room.

    Watching my 4 dogs, they are certainly aware of music and seem to at least dislike some music which varies according to individual. But what "reads" as music to their brains might be very different between our species. Humans might be rhythmic/melodic in their appreciation of sounds while dogs may have a more emotional response to other sensory/auditory input. Perhaps if we ever make "smell music" we will have dog fans. Or perhaps music to a dog is atonal - dog pack howls involve sustained rising/falling notes from different throats and pitches, if you consider this music it's closer to Tibetan Monks than what we might first try as music a dog might appreciate.