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Barkin' Bops! An anxious dog's best friend

Škoda UK and Dog Behaviourist and Nutritionist, Anna Webb, have partnered to create a playlist of songs scientifically proven to ease car travel anxiety in dogs, entitled Happy Hounds, available on Spotify now.

The playlist was created after research from Škoda revealed six out of 10 dogs become anxious in cars. It also emerged that 75% of dog owning drivers have been distracted on streets, lanes, and motorways by the behaviour of their anxious dog.

Dogs can become anxious in cars for many reasons including the space being unfamiliar, hearing unusual sounds from the road and weather, the temperature being too warm in the car, previous bad experiences, and motion sickness.

Anna Webb, a leading Dog Behaviourist and Nutritionist for over 20 years, also revealed her top mindfulness tips to guide listeners on how to help their canines enjoy car journeys. These are available to download on Spotify now by searching Top Tips for Happy Hounds with Anna Webb and Škoda.

Webb’s tips include ensuring your dog is comfortable in their harness before entering the car, starting with the music volume low at first and keeping the car under 20 degrees Celsius.

Pop icon Harry Styles can give himself a round of a-paws after his smash hit Watermelon Sugar made it onto the specially curated Spotify playlist, due to his velvety vocals. Styles is in good company, as his hit track is joined by songs from both SZA and Rihanna, amongst other music icons. Bob Marley and the Wailers and Adele also feature on the playlist, which launched today, 8 March 2023.

Anna Webb advises that the beats per minute of a song is key to keeping dogs calm on long journeys. She comments: “Emulating the heartbeat is thought by science to offer a calming effect. Small dogs and puppies normally have heart rates of 120 to 160 beats per minute. These songs work as they are not heavy metal or similar genres which is known to disturb sleep patterns in dogs.”

“I included some reggae songs on the upper end of the BPM as it’s proven dogs like reggae, so these will work well for smaller dogs as their heartbeat is faster than bigger dogs.”

Škoda reached out to members of the public who struggle with the above problems to ask about their experiences with the playlist and how their dogs reacted to it…with positive results:

Carina, 38, a Researcher from Staffordshire, said: “All in all, I was really surprised at how effective it was. I was a little sceptical at first as to how much effect it could have, as the songs seemed so random! But I was happily proved wrong.

“I would do anything to make journeys easier and more comfortable for [my Cavachon] Monty. This was a simple change to make, and it made Monty's experience in the car much more enjoyable.”

Thelma, 52, a School Administrator from Barnet, said: “When we got to Cayendo by Frank Ocean, Theo [a German Splitz Klein] was really relaxed, sitting down and even closed his eyes! By the time we got to Starman at the end of playlist he was curled up in his chair! I really enjoyed the playlist myself and will be listening in the future!”

Anna Webb also added: “We based the playlist on a deep understanding of the relationship between beats per minute and high and low frequencies. The larger the dog, the slower the normal heart rate. This means it is a slow tempo, which science has proven is calming to dogs. So slower tempo songs work for bigger dogs.

“This is important for dogs as their hearing is more attuned to hearing the vibrations in high and low frequencies than us. Their responses to music genres will be different to how humans respond to music, as they have increased sensitivity to the high and low frequencies we cannot hear.

“It’s worth acclimatising your dog to the playlist before you get into the car, so the dog makes positive associations with these songs before moving them into the car. These songs therefore will offer a ‘memory’ that all is okay in situations like weather conditions making the car suddenly a bit scarier, or suddenly sensing the movement of a larger vehicle overtaking you.”

Škoda’s research, carried out among 1,000 dog owners, revealed 60% feel they must limit where they go on days out due to their dog becoming distressed in the car.

While the problem affects most dogs in Britain, it seems a large percentage of people (24%) have no idea how to ease their dog’s discomfort. Overall, six out of 10 owners said they had tried but failed to solve the issue.

The playlist, Happy Hounds with Škoda, is available here on Spotify now: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3ovLwyW5p15rWcTEeZGake?si=bd8cabbd49354726

Anna Webb’s Top Tips for Happy Hounds podcast is also available on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/3kE960N6siyLQWmbs1k0Pz

The Škoda Happy Hounds playlist has been devised by Anna Webb and formed based on her 20 years of expertise

  1. No Woman No Cry – Bob Marley and the Wailers

Reggae goes down superbly with anxious dogs as they find it calming because of its unique rhythm - 4x4 time signature with emphasis placed on the 2nd and 4th beats of the bar – so it’s perfect for relaxing to on a long drive.

  1. Oh my God – Adele

Rumour has it Adele’s voice is of a lower frequency and in turn keeps a melody without sharp contrasts.

  1. Good Days – SZA

SZA’s track has a reggae style with its classic 4x4 rhythm. Additionally, the BPM or tempo is 121 BPM, helping dogs to remain calm. 

  1. More Than a Woman – Bee Gees

With this bone-afide classic, the dance beat is melodic and not fast paced, making it a great drive time tune for dogs. It also has a good BPM for dogs at a steady 106 BPM, falling into the range of lower frequency, or vibrations.

  1. Anti-Hero – Taylor Swift

Taylor’s a hero with this new tune, as it comes in at 106 bpm making for an ideal tempo for our furry friends. Taylor also sings at a low frequency and speed, at a steady rhythm of 4x4 so its best suited for aiding dogs’ anxiety.

  1. Orphans – Coldplay

This is ‘soft rock’ in style, so a textbook music track for dogs. It is also 106 beats per minute so in range as low frequency. 

  1. Coming Back – James Blake ft. SZA

This has an 86-bpm tempo, so low frequency and in range for dogs’ heartbeats. Overall, it fits perfectly in terms of dog’s regular heartbeat.

  1. Candy – Paulo Nutini

This sweet tune has a 123 bpm, so Paulo’s smooth vocals sit comfortably at the upper frequency range for dogs.

  1. Dreams – Fleetwood Mac

A classic ‘Easy Listening’ soft rock track ideal for anxious dogs to help them dream in the car – it has a 61 bpm so a low frequency and tempo, along with a steady 4x4 beat. 

  1. Fly Me to The Moon – Frank Sinatra

This has a 119 BPM so low frequency, warm vocal. Pawfect!

  1. Flowers – Miley Cyrus

A 118 BPM rhythm, so a low frequency and easy melody for dogs to listen to. Regular 4x4 beat meaning no major riff gear changes and a pawsome choice to play.  

  1. Cayendo (Side A – acoustic) – Frank Ocean

Ride that ocean wave…this is 49 beats per minute so on the low vibrations and frequency scale, resulting in a very calming tune.

  1. Hound Dog – Elvis Presley 

Science suggests Rock ‘n’ Roll is agitating for dogs; however, at 87 beats per minute the tune actually comes in at a low frequency, and therefore absolutely ideal for dogs in the car. Rock ‘n’ Roll over, doggos.

  1. The Dogs of War – Pink Floyd

A su-paw song with the tempo and BPM at 88 – it can’t get better than this!  

  1. Starman – David Bowie

Bowie will be the star of the show with this choice as the tempo is 100, so in range for dogs to stay calm as a lower frequency vibration – it’s exactly what an anxious dog needs.

  1. Watermelon Sugar – Harry Styles

This pup-ular artist will also raise the woof for dogs, as his award-winning song sits in the 85 BPM, so in line with the ‘reggae’ ideal.

  1. Stay – Rihanna

This throwback song is a relaxing 112 bpm, so some might say it’s the ultimutt furrapy, with low frequency vibrations and a 4 x4 rhythm.

  1. Careless Whisper – George Michael

Another 4x4 beat and is 76 BPM - so a little slow, but George’s husky tones are great for bigger dogs with a lower heartbeat and will get tails wagging.

  1. Like a Prayer – Madonna

Madonna gets it right – as always - with her classic anthem, as it hits perfectly with the 111 beats per minute and an even, 4 x 4 beat.

  1. Knowing Me, Knowing You – ABBA

Finally, at 107 beats per minute, so within the gold standard reggae and soft rock model, and low frequency vibration are Swedish songbirds ABBA.

Anna Webb’s Top Tips:

  1. Acclimatise your dog to its harness indoors using treats and chews as rewards.
  2. Gradually build on the length of time they spend in the carrier each day, ensuring they are totally comfortable.
  3. Once happy, you’re ready to enter the car. Ensure their experience getting into the car is comfortable, so you may need to use a ramp or gently lift them into the car.
  4. When in the car, let your pet settle before turning the engine on. This may take a few attempts.
  5. Bring the playlist into the mix at a low volume and keep the engine off. Don’t reward anxious behaviours with eye contact or speech. Keep sessions short, around 10-15 minutes.
  6. Now combine the above, turn the engine on, but remain stationary. Gradually build the time you spend in the car with the engine on.
  7. Once content, you’re ready to get moving. Begin with short journeys and lengthen gradually.
  8. When getting to longer journeys, plan with your dog in mind. Factor in comfort breaks every two hours and plan a route with dog friendly services or walks.
  9. Remember to keep the car at a cool temperature, under 20 degrees Celsius, as your dog’s body temperature is two degrees higher than a humans.
  10. Finally, dogs can smell stress in our sweat and breathe, so make sure to use the playlist to keep up positive vibes!

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