For most people, learning to play the guitar is something that can be achieved in a matter of months. In fact, with most of my students I can get them playing a chord or two (or even just the riff from the Rolling Stones song Satisfaction) within the first lesson.
However, for dogs, things aren’t quite as straight forward.
Supplies to Prepare before Picking Up a Puppy
- House or Crate
- Food & Nutrition
- Dry Food
- Wet Food
- Canned Food
Try as I might, over 30 years as a guitarist and a pet human, I’ve never once been able to get a dog to play the guitar even as well as my worst guitar student.
Why is that? Well, in this article I will outline five of the key reasons I’ve found that hold almost all dogs back from their dreams of being in the next Black Labath, Queens of the Bone Age or even just Canine Inch Nails.
There’s no comfortable position for them to play
For most of us, playing the guitar is as simple as sitting in a chair with the guitar in our lap, keeping it perfectly balanced as we strum out a tune.
Unfortunately (and not many people know this), dogs don’t have laps, and most are terrible at sitting upright. In fact, in my experience, most dogs who are able to sit upright (say in a chair or on a couch) are really doing so as some sort of “trick”, and easily fall over when challenged to do something that effects their balance such as drinking tea with a saucer, changing the channel with the remote, or strumming a few chords on a guitar.
This lack of a lap and inability to sit correctly is a major hindrance for dogs in terms of success with learning to play the guitar.
They’re easily distracted
Learning to play an instrument takes dedication, and in many cases a lot of repetition in order to get the mechanics of playing correct, in addition to how you need to play scales over and over and over to get them into your head and make them natural under your fingers.
Yeah, dogs can’t do that. The issue is that once they’ve played something two or three times, they are primed for a car to drive by outside or maybe there’s a creak in the attic, and then they drop the guitar and run off to investigate. Within minutes they’re frantically licking their paws, forgetting about the guitar entirely.
It’s a constant battle.
They’re typically not very creative
While of course you don’t necessarily use a lot of creative thinking at the beginning stages of learning the guitar, you do at some point have to chart your own course with the instrument, coming up first with your own embellishments and soon your own songs.
Dogs on the other hand are pretty much stuck in a cycle of “tell me what to do and I’ll do it”.
For this reason, I could see dogs making good session musicians or accompanying players alongside more creative human players, but they might struggle to get the spotlight on themselves.
They can’t hold the notes right
While some guitars are easier to play than others, most guitars stump dogs in terms of getting a useable sound out of them.
You see, there’s this thing called ‘”guitar action” which is the distance from the string to the guitar neck – it’s the thing that determines if a guitar will be easy to play or not. In practical terms, this means if you press down too hard, the notes go sharp, too soft and the notes make no sound.
Most dogs get overexcited (news to nobody) and press down too hard when trying to play the guitar, resulting in notes as sharp as a shaggy dog’s nails, making their musical endeavors all but unlistenable.
They lack canine guitar player role models
For many of us, learning to play the guitar is the culmination of a lifetime of playing air guitar along to some of our favorite artists, be they Chuck Berry or that one guy from Limp Bizkit who looks like a used match.
For guitars, there are no such role models. This means that they lack the self confidence and vision required to see themselves through the difficult early period of learning the guitar, and quit the instrument entirely before they have any success.
This of course is a vicious cycle – maybe some day soon there will be a breakout dog (probably an American Pitbull – mine is constantly breaking out) who will light up the charts with their version of “I ain’t Nothing But A Hound Dog”, giving hope to a generation of pups who need stars in their eyes to achieve their dreams.
I do believe in my heart of hearts that one day we will see a dog at the top of the Billboard charts – but for now…
I’m not holding my breath.