Sound baths have ancient roots, but it’s unclear when the holistic healing practice definitively started. But numerous studies of sound healing and sound baths make one thing quite clear: They can be beneficial for humans and dogs alike.
In cities such as Los Angeles and New York, sound baths for pups and pet parents are increasing in popularity. So, it’s no surprise that many pet parents are wondering if they should join in on the soothing-sounds trend. But what exactly are sound baths, and how do they help dogs?
We talked to a certified rehabilitation therapist—also trained in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine—to get all the vibrational details.
Click to jump to each section:
What Are Dog Sound Baths?
Sound baths immerse dogs and their pet parents in sound vibrations from instruments, music, tones and other sonic vibrations. Most often, traditional instruments such as gongs, crystal singing bowls, drums, rain sticks and the didgeridoo are played to “retune” the body and elicit feelings of relaxation.
Picture it like dropping a pebble into the pond. When the vibrations from the instruments collide with your body, they create a ripple effect that you can feel but can’t see.
Sound baths are considered a noninvasive form of self-care to support healing and trigger a deep sense of relaxation.
How Do Sound Baths Help Dogs?
“[My husband and I] both love sound baths for ourselves and wanted to try it for our animals,” she says. “[We] noticed how well our own pets reacted when we played instruments and singing bowls in our home. One of our German Shepherds loved the didgeridoo. She laid right in front of the bell and relaxed, soaking up the sound vibrations.”
And her German Shepherd isn’t an anomaly. Hebel treats anxious dogs and cats to sound baths in her integrative vet clinic every day, resulting in a number of benefits:
- Pain relief: Healing vibrations from tuning forks can create a “sound massage” for muscles and joints.
- Relaxation: Instruments such as Tibetan singing bowls, gongs and chimes can help calm the mind and body.
- Reduced anxiety and stress: Certain sounds, including singing bowls, can trigger the nervous system’s natural relaxation response.
- Improved sleep: Any instrument in a sound bath can create a peaceful atmosphere that’s conducive to rest.
- Enhanced mood: Sound baths can stimulate the release of “happy hormones” in the brain.
What Are the Downsides of Sound Baths for Dogs?
- Start at a low volume. Dogs have sensitive hearing. Choose sounds that are specifically designed for dogs or have been tested and deemed safe. To start, keep the volume low and gradually increase. Watch your fur baby’s body language for any signs of discomfort.
- Start slow. Dogs are creatures of habit. Changes to their environment or routines can cause stress and anxiety. So, introduce them to new sounds and vibrations gradually and for shorter durations.
- Create a calm setting. Make it a really safe, stress-free space by turning down the lights, and pulling out familiar blankets or beds.
- Acknowledge your dog’s uniqueness. Not all dogs react to environmental sounds and vibrations the same way. For example, Hebel says some dogs may be fearful of rain stick or thunder drums sounds. Don’t force it on them. If they appear in distress, lower the volume or stop the session. Even better, allow your dog the freedom to leave the room when they want.
Are Group Dog Sound Baths Just as Beneficial?
“I would only take a dog to a sound bath if they are comfortable being in close quarters with other dogs and humans sitting on the floor,” says Hebel.
Group dog sound baths also aren’t right for aggressive dogs, very shy dogs or dogs with noise phobias.
“These dogs are best helped one-on-one with a practitioner who can introduce them to sound healing in a positive way,” says Hebel.
How to Prepare Your Dog for a Group Sound Bath
If you think a group sound bath is appropriate for your pet—based on their temperament, behavior and obedience skills—use these tips for a successful session:
1Pack a leash and dog bed
You’ll need to keep your dog on a leash and under control at all times. Bringing a familiar dog bed or blanket along can also help your pup feel comfortable in the unfamiliar space.
2Get there early
Speaking of unfamiliar spaces, arrive at the venue 10-15 minutes early. Allow your dog time to go potty and to explore the space, becoming accustomed to it before the session starts.
3Consider purchasing an anxiety vest or cap
If your dog isn’t aggressive or shy but you’re slightly worried about their reaction to the sounds, an anxiety vest or calming cap might help. Vests apply gentle, constant pressure that feels like a hug and can produce dramatic calming effects. Caps create a swaddling effect and can help reduce loud noises.
4Supplement with calm-inducing treats
Boost your pup’s relaxation even more by giving them soft chews designed to help dogs with normal stress, nervousness and hyperactivity.
How to Host a Sound Bath Session at Home
If you’re new to sound baths, start with a Himalayan singing bowl, which is safe for sensitive canine ears. It’s especially a great instrument to play during thunderstorms to calm phobic pups.
You can also find pet sound bath or pet sound therapy playlists on Spotify and other music streaming platforms. Just remember: Start slow, start low.
What Are Other Ways to Achieve Zen in the Home?
- Create—and keep to—a consistent routine. Your pup loves predictability and structure. So, feed, walk, play and tuck your pup into the bed at the same times each day.
- Lead by example. “As the leader of the home pack, the owner sets the tone for the anxiety level of the house,” says Hebel. “Animals will often mirror your emotions. Incorporating a meditation practice, breathing exercises and yoga can help relax humans and, by extension, your pets as well.”
- Play music or white noise. If sound bath tools aren’t doing the job, try playing classical music or white noise, both of which have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in dogs.
- And just play. Your pup needs to release their energy. Plus, they wait all day to spend time with you. Get outside, go for a run, play tug-of-war: Any bonding and exercise is good for both you and your dog’s mental and physical health.
Will Dog Sound Baths Continue to Rise in Popularity?
Many traditional sound-bath venues don’t allow pets due to potential human allergies. Plus, it’s logistically difficult to treat multiple dogs at a time. However, Hebel has seen an increase in demand for instructional sound healing classes for pets in the last six months. So, maybe more pet parents will learn and host sessions in their home.
Either way, holistic healing is on the rise—and just getting started.
“People are beginning to understand that Western medicine has its limitations,” explains Hebel. “They’re tired of giving their dogs drugs and not getting the results they want for their pets.”