Monday, June 18, 2012

Two Piano Playing Dogs Paw Out a Tune!

By Linda Cole

When it comes to tickling those ivory keys, Nora the Piano Cat is still in a class all her own. Unfortunately for Nora, there's always another prodigy waiting in the wings for their own crack at stardom. In this case, it's two talented dogs that have woofed their way into the hearts of animal-loving YouTube viewers.

Don't get me wrong, I love Nora and her piano playing antics. Her obvious enjoyment at tickling the ivory keys is unsurpassed by any other feline. And there are plenty of Nora wannabes on You Tube these days. However, now there's a dog duet pawing out a tune on their own specially made piano, with a cuteness factor that’s through the roof!

The You Tube video of two piano playing Golden Retrievers has been delighting dog lovers ever since it was first posted. The dogs are playing “Waltz of the Fleas” on an oversized keyboard as their owner sits in front of them playing a small flute-like instrument called an ocarina. The piano playing pups watch their “conductor” and then step on the piano keys matching the note she's playing. And they do a pretty good job getting the right note!

At first glance, one would say the dogs are just doing what they were trained to do. As you watch the video, though, the lighter colored dog seems to be anticipating the coming note. However, they may also be responding to the musical note they are hearing, according to Charles Snowdon, an animal psychologist and zoologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Snowdon theorizes that the dogs are following cues by their owner, which is not the same as them memorizing what's next. He believes it is possible the dogs are able to understand the notes their owner is playing and know which key on the piano will duplicate the sound from the ocarina.

Scientists know music is something all species enjoy, but how it's received is different depending on the species listening. According to Snowden, the music that appeals to different species depends on the hearing (acoustic) and vocal range that's understood by us or an animal according to how we hear sound. A pitch that's too high or low can be more irritating than soothing, and a beat that's too fast or slow may not be perceived as music depending on the species listening to it.

Cats respond better to music in the higher pitched range with notes that appeal to them, such as those that sound like chirping birds or a squeaking mouse. Dogs, on the other hand, can be all over the spectrum of sound because they are different sizes and have different vocal ranges. According to Snowdon, this does make a difference in how dogs understand music. His data is backed up by other researchers who have also found that dogs respond differently to our music depending on their size.

Since large dogs have a vocal range similar to a human adult male, Snowdon believes it's possible the piano playing Golden Retrievers are able to respond to those notes as tones and then match what they hear on the piano. Most likely, they don't understand that what they're doing is music, but they don't seem to mind the sound of the notes, and it looks like they're having fun interacting with their owner and showing the world just how smart Golden Retrievers are. There is a reason why this breed is ranked in the top 10 list for intelligence.

If your dog enjoys music and likes to dance around the room with you, consider getting involved in the sport of canine freestyle dance. It's never a bad idea to spend extra time with your pet doing something you both love, and dancing to music together can work off some of that pent up energy all dogs get while waiting for us to come home at night. Stock up on some CANIDAE TidNips™ treats, put on your favorite tunes (approved by your music loving four legged partner, of course), and have some fun!

Nora will always be in a class of her own as the greatest piano playing feline of all time. But the piano playing Golden Retrievers are definitely barking on that door to fame and fortune. Well, that may be a little over the top, but you have to admit – it's pretty cute watching them play!

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. Great YouTube video. Thanks for sharing.

    The dogs looked like they were really enjoying it.

  2. What a fun video! Thanks for sharing. Mom adds we all have to keep our paws off her piano keys:)

    Woos - Phantom, Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning

  3. The dogs weren't bad but the ocarina is rather screechy!

  4. I don’t know what the reason is they are doing it (training or listening to the notes) , but it is very clever!


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