Canine Calmness


Shelter Life...

... is stressful for dogs, even with the best care.  Calmer dogs eat and rest better.

Also, they can be better candidates for adoption.  Visitors may be more likely to adopt in a calm setting.

My mission is to encourage others to help shelter dogs by playing live cello music for them.  Nearly 3.3 million dogs enter shelters in the US each year.  They give us so much as faithful companions and service dogs.  This is an opportunity to give something to them.  


While playing my cello for dogs, I have seen feral dogs‘ behavioral changes. One slowly  revealed himself for the first time, coming out of his hiding place, and another allowed a caregiver to stroke the length of his body for the first time.

My name is Cheryl Wallace, and I have played my cello at animal shelters and in private homes in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois.  Although I cannot hear myself play over the barking at first, it ceases after a while, and the dogs return to a calmer state even when caregivers or visitors enter.

What We Know

A study conducted by the Scottish SPCA at the University of Glasgow showed that dogs showed less stress when listening to certain types of music. Methods used were heart monitors and testing cortisol levels in saliva.  Also, barking and lying down behaviors were observed.  

The cello is said to be the instrument which most closely resembles the human voice.  

The canine nervous system is soothed by low frequencies and slow tempos, which can be played on the cello.  Longer continuous notes and regular rhythms are calming. 

How Dogs Listen

Dogs listen actively, ears pricked up, when hearing someone approach.  They listen passively to background sounds, such as music.  Music played in the shelter can help them to stay calmer, even when someone  approaches.  

What You Can Do

You do not have to be a virtuoso to play music which calms shelter dogs.  What dogs are most calmed by is LOW and SLOW music.  

Playing the lowest ranges of the cello and an andante tempo will help the most.   

Andante tempo (76 to 108 beats per minute) is close to the resting heart rate of a human or a medium sized dog, 60 to 100 beats per minute, or one every 1 second or a little faster. 

Fellow cellists, tune up, rosin up, and contact your local shelter!

What Others Have Done

Natalie Helm, principal cellist for the Sarasota Symphony, and her organization Upward Notes, play for the Humane Society of Sarasota County  in Florida, as well as for veterans, homeless shelters, and the elderly.

Canine Concerto

April 14, 2019

Town and Country Humane Society

Papillion, Nebraska

Clarke-County Animal-Shelter

May 8, 2020

Love playing here in Osceola, Iowa, as the dogs are allowed to spend time outdoors, and can run free in their enclosure.
Appreciate the birds’ accompaniment. 


a compilation of photos from shelters where I have played, from November 2018 through May 2020