What do dogs really hear?
Have you ever been sitting with your dog on a quiet evening, and out of no where, he leaps up and woofs at the window? You did not hear a thing, but you get up anyway to check, and see nothing. You tell your pooch, “Silly, there’s nothing there, you’re barking at nothing”… Or is there? We see it all the time as pet sitters and dog walkers…something is up but we don’t know what!
Dogs have a significant better sense of hearing than us humans, so it’s very possible you’re the one who doesn’t realize what’s going on! If your dog is signaling about something, it’s probably because he or she can hear something you can’t… and I’ll explain why.
First, dogs can hear four times the distance as us humans! So even though you may not be hearing or seeing anything near by, it doesn’t mean your dog didn’t. My own dog has alerted that a canine friend of his is “nearby” several minutes before they’ve arrived. It’s as if he can hear and sense them coming from miles away.
Second, dogs can also hear a higher range of sound than humans! Sound is measured in Herz, or cycles per second. I’ve read that dogs can hear up to ranges of 40,000 – 65,000 Hz, whereas a healthy human with undamaged hearing can only hear up to about 20,000 Hz. The ability to hear higher pitches comes from a predatory adaptation of the dog’s ancestor, the wolf, who honed this skill to help hunt small prey, like squeaky rodents and vermin.
Last, dogs can detect the location of a sound better than humans. The picture on this blog shows a Wisconsin Pet Care client, and her adorable ears! Regardless of how cute she looks with what appears to be two giant cones on her head, her ears are actually intentionally structured this way to help Maggie hear better. Her ears act like a sound-catching tunnel, each able to reach one half the circumference of her head, allowing for 360 degree coverage of catching bouncing sound waves around her. This mobility of the dog’s ear pinna (the cartilage) allows for them to orient their ears towards the sound, allowing the dog to better detect where a sound is located. It’s been tested that dog’s can pinpoint the location of a sound within 0.06 seconds!
It’s no wonder dogs can be so expressive with their ears! I think of all the times a dog perks it’s ears forward in eagerness to hear my next command. Or when they start to get distracted, and their ears twitch, wandering away just like their attention span. But now we know they’re not just poking their ears up, just to look cute enough to sucker you into giving them another cookie.
“Hears” to you and your pooch!