Q&A: Bill Turnbull on pet-friendly radio

Following the announcement of his pet-themed radio show, Pet Sounds, Bill Turnbull explains why classical music may have more furry fans that we imagine…

Tell us about Classic FM’s Pet Sounds programme.

Bill: It’s specifically devised for pets—dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils—who may be nervous on Fireworks Night and need something to calm them down, so this is their radio refuge.

Read more: How to keep your pet calm during bonfire night

 

How do you feel about presenting a programme just for pets and their owners?

I’ve been very happy presenting to the humans for the past two-and-a-half years on Classic FM, so this is an absolute pleasure and even possibly even a step up!

 


Classic FM partnered with Battersea Dogs and Cats Home for the show, and musicians performed a mini-concert for some of the dogs waiting to be rehomed

 

What are you particularly looking forward to?

The music that we play on Classic FM is always relaxing but what we have lined up for Pet Sounds is even more chilled than usual, which is great. 

A lot of is pet-related so there is a piece that Elgar named after his cairn terrier called Mina. John Barry has got a lovely lyrical composition called "Crazy Dogs" and there’s a nice little story I’ll be able to tell about Mozart and his pet starling.

I never knew he had a pet starling. Apparently, he had a funeral for it when it died.

 

As a dog owner yourself, do you think that classical music can have a positive effect on animals?

Undoubtedly. There have been studies showing the calming effect that music has on humans, but I think about three years ago, the Scottish SPCA and Glasgow University found that when music was played to dogs, their heart rates went down, their stress levels decreased and their behaviour overall calmed down considerably. 

So it definitely works scientifically and we know from our dogs that they do get chilled when they’re lying down listening to Classic FM.

 

"If I was a dog I’d probably be a boxer because I am loyal, very warm emotionally but also a bit of a pugilist"

 

Tell us about your own dogs.

We have three dogs, all black labradors. We have Nina who’s 12, Bonnie who’s nine and Lola who is just a year old.

 I can’t remember if they’ve ever been close to a firework display. Nina’s OK with it but I don’t think the others have ever heard one. We did have a dog though, Ella, who we lost a few ago and she hated fireworks, absolutely hated them and would cower under the furniture whenever she heard the bangs going off.

There will be many, many dogs like that who I hope will be tuning in on Saturday night.

 

Do you think your dogs enjoy classical music?

Well, they haven’t actually been able to tell me in so many words, but I always play Classic FM when leaving them on their own. It’s the rule, it just goes on. 

They’re certainly calm when we leave and they’re calm when we come back. They’re probably up and down, bouncing to rock 'n' roll while we’re out, but for all appearances, they enjoy it very much.

 


Burgess enjoying the music of the Classic FM musicians

 

Have you always been a dog lover?

Absolutely. When I was a toddler I would roll around on the floor with the dog that I grew up with. 

There was a long period in my early adulthood sadly when I was without dogs because I was moving around, living in America and that sort of thing, but then we got given a black labrador, 20 years ago, called Oscar. He was an absolute legend and we've been sold on labs ever since. 

 

If you were a particular breed of dog, what breed would you be and why?

That’s a very difficult question. I don’t think I’m docile enough to be a labrador. I think I’d probably be a boxer because I am loyal, very warm emotionally but also temperamentally a bit of a pugilist.

 

In addition to his regular Saturday and Sunday shows on Classic FM, Bill Turnbull presents Classic FM’s Pet Sounds this Saturday 3rd November from 7-9pm, available across the UK on 100-102 FM, DAB digital radio and TV, the Classic FM app, at ClassicFM.com and on the Global Player.