How do Dogs Hear

One word describes a healthy dog’s hearing – sensitive. A dog can sense sounds at four times the distance of a human. If you understand how your dog hears, you’ll be able to communicate better because you’ll see how they perceive the world. Dog’s depend on their acute sense of hearing to survive, to hunt, to protect, to detect and to perform.


Compared to humans, who can hear frequencies between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz, dogs can hear sounds between 67 Hz and 45,000 to 60,000 Hz, depending on breed. This means healthy dogs can hear higher frequencies than humans. Dogs can hear the heartbeat of a rabbit or the peep of a mouse. Like a satellite dish a dog’s ears rotate to capture sound and pick up high frequencies.

Dogs have 18 muscles in their ears allowing them to quickly respond to sound by rotating their ear in different directions. In comparison, the human ear has nine muscles. Specially designed inner ear allows radar-like operation and movement.

In addition to multiple ways to move their ears, dogs additionally will tilt their heads in the direction of the sound to capture vibrations.

Dogs can perceive height and depth of the sounds. They have the ability to hear ultra high frequencies undetectable by the human ear and distinguish between different footstep sounds, car sounds or animal sounds.


Dogs easily hear everything the human ear can pick up except four times louder. They detect fainter sounds from greater distances, and on much higher frequencies. They are able to determine the direction a sound is coming more accurately than a human.and can differentiate between similar sounds such as the footsteps made by their owner, the postman, the neighbor or friend. and they can clearly differentiate pitch, voice tone, and word pronunciations.

What sounds loud to the human ear becomes four times louder to a dog. Higher than normal frequencies will cause Fido to bark at, attack or even run to hide. As an example, turn the volume up on the television or radio to four times what you normally listen to and you’ll have an idea of a dog’s audio sensitivities. Psychologically a diet of continued loud sounds such as screaming children, rock music, increased television volume or similar can cause a dog to have behavior problems due to noise stress.


Silent Whistles.

These are whistles made for dogs that sound silent to humans. The pitch of the frequency is higher than the human’s ability to detect it.

Clicker training.

A clicker is a non-confrontational training tool, emitting a click sound and is used to mark the correct action of a wanted behavior. From a psychological standpoint the clicker activates the part of the brain called the amygdala. It is a clear, concise sound remaining the same in pitch each time you use it in comparison to the way human voices can fluctuate in tone. It clearly defines what the dog is doing right so the behavior is strengthened and the dog is learning what to do, instead of what not to do providing a clear educational experience versus unpleasant, confusing punishment.


To the dog, there are skills he needs to survive in the world. Look at it like a detective utilizing certain skills in a crime scene investigation. To a dog those skills include detection of the exact origin of the sound. They have the ability to make an accurate interpretation of the sound and to decide if the sound is threatening or non-threatening. Dogs use their hearing to gather information.

So it is no wonder dog’s have behaavioral sensitivities to thunder, planes flying overhead, loud noises, trucks, motorcycles and any number of other things to include fireworks. The sound may actually cause the dog pain or if the sound is paired with something aversive in the environment, the sound comes to mean impending pain.

The acuity of a dog’s hearing can diminish with age and dogs exposed to continuous loud decibels of music, overhead planes, engine noise can develop hearing loss as readily as man.


Collect different sound producing objects. Examples would be a bell, a noisemaker, a squeaky toy, a dog whistle, a clicker, a tape recorder or DVD devise with sounds like thunder, or a pot and a spoon to make drum-like sounds. This test is especially good if you suspect your dog may be hearing impaired.

1 – Have your dog sit in a room.

2 – Stand behind him about six feet away. Your dog should not be looking at you and you should remain neutral and quiet.

5 – Then start making noises using different objects.

6 – If your dog can hear you, you’ll notice him pricking up his ears and turning his head. If he doesn’t do this, he has a hearing problem.


In the book by Immanuel Birmelin “How Dogs Think” he quotes Stanley Coren author of “Understanding Your Dog for Dummies”. “When pronouncing words such as ‘show’, ‘shine’ or ‘shut’ and drawing out the ‘sh’ sound, most people do this at a frequency of 2,000 Hz. But when one pronounced the sibilant ‘s’ sound, which sounds like the buzz of a hornet, this occurs at about 8,000 Hz. To our ears, this sound is softer, but it is quite the opposite with dogs. They register it as being louder.” My English Bulldog, Wimpy, would respond to this sound by jumping around quickly and moving away. He had been stung by a bee and the sound was enough to get him quickly moving in the opposite direction equating the sound with the pain.

Test how your dog responds to certain sound frequencies.

The goal is to teach your dog a recall resulting in a reward coupled with a certain sound. Gather a sound maker, such as a recorder, a flute, or similar to emit a certain note.

1 – Ask your dog to lie down.

2 – Walk 10 to 12 feet away and face him.

3 – Use the sound maker to play a certain note, decided on earlier. It must be the exact same note each time – for instance, one long toot on a flute.

4 – After you’ve made the sound, call your dog. REPEAT.

5 – In addition to the note he has already learned, play another one or two short notes, instead of one long one.

6 – After you’ve made the sound, pet your dog.

Soon your dog will be differentiating between the tone to come when called and the tones for petting. Each will get different body language responses from the dog.

If you think about these exercises, you’ll understand why your dog has selective hearing at times, especially if you use harsh voice tones.


Understanding Your Dog for Dummies, by Stanley Coren

How Dogs Think by Immanuel Birmelin