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What can dogs hear?

Staffy dog with one ear sticking out advice

Sounds dogs can hear that humans can't

© Shutterstock

Does their amazing hearing explain their ability to pick up on changes in the weather?  And other natural events, like earthquakes? And how do our ears compare to our pets? Let's take a closer look.

By Ashley Murphy

Published on the 05/04/2020, 17:00

Since humans first domesticated dogs, we've always suspected they have a sixth sense. But it turns out they don't; they just have a few super senses, including their hearing. But what can dogs hear with those cute, furry ears?

What do dogs hear when we talk to them?

Dogs can hear sound from up to four times further away than us humans. However, our dogs don't really understand words like sit, stay, and rollover - or at least not in the way humans understand language.

Instead, pooches respond to the way we say things, including tone, pitch, and body language. For example, if you told your dog that he's a very naughty boy (which, of course, he isn't) in the same voice you use to give him some praise, he'd probably start wagging his tail and come looking for a few cuddles.

Are you wondering how to speak to your dog? Let's find out

How do I tell my dog I love him?

Studies have shown that a dog's brain contains a hormone called oxytocin, a chemical also present in the human brain. It plays a crucial role in pair bonding and forming family times; it's sometimes referred to as the 'love hormone.' So while the words I love you won't mean much to a dog, they're more than capable of experiencing the emotion.

As long as you fill the words with all the love you have for your dog, they'll understand what your saying. And scratch behind your dog's ear and give them a few extra belly rubs -  positive physical contact releases oxytocin and other 'love' hormones, including dopamine and serotonin.

How can dogs hear better than humans?

Your dog's ears are designed to pick up higher frequencies and hear sounds over great distances. This is partly down to the position of the ears and their unique shape. Dog ears are often perched on top of the head, and their cupped shaped means they ‘catch’ more sound waves.

Most of the dog breeds with the best hearing range have perched, cupped ears; they include the German Shepherd, Chihuahua, and the Boston Terrier.  And unlike their owners, dogs can move their ears in different directions. Your average pooch has 18 muscles in and around their ears, so they can raise them, tilt them, and rotate them to pinpoint the location of a particular sound.

What sounds can dogs hear that humans cannot?

Sound is a pressure wave created by a vibrating object. Sound frequency refers to the number of vibrations within one minute - we call this hertz (Hz). And a higher frequency of vibrations per minute equals a higher Hz. Humans can hear sounds ranging from 20hz to 20,000 Hz. We speak in ranges between 1,000 Hz to 5,000 Hz, and overexposure to our maximum hearing range can result in partial or full hearing loss.

In contrast, dogs hear frequencies of up to 65,000 Hz! This means they can pick up many sounds that pass us by, including high pitched sounds from a dog whistle used for obedience training. Experts suspect dogs can also hear the beginnings of a thunderstorm long before us humans, as well as the vibrations coming from beneath the ground before an earthquake.

What frequency will hurt a dog's ears?

Dogs have an incredible sense of hearing, but it's certainly not limitless. Anything above 36,000 Hz will be very painful and may cause hearing damage.

Dogs also suffer hearing loss as they get older. If you're worried about their hearing, there's a specially designed hearing test for dogs. The Brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) is an electro-magnetic test that evaluates responses to auditory stimulation, which is usually a set of clicks.

What Hz makes dogs go crazy?

Frequencies above 25,000 Hz can become irritating for dogs. They may start to whine, whimper, bark, or just run away from the source of the noise.

So it looks (or should we say sounds?) like our dogs are even more amazing than we thought. Their hearing abilities put ours to shame, and our adorable fur babies  know precisely what we mean when we say  'I love you.' Just don't say it too loud. Dogs ears are cute, but they're also super sensitive!