We all like to think we know our dogs inside and out, but sometimes we have to remember that they’re very different to us. While we can appreciate the wonder of fireworks, many dogs will be hiding under the bed. There’s something about the loud bangs that dogs just don’t like.
The same is true of thunderstorms. We’ve all heard that animals can sense storms. Some of us will even have first-hand experience, with our dogs acting agitated well before that first clap of thunder rumbles. Just how well can a dog hear that they can sense a storm from miles off?
It’s not exactly a simple question, but the simplest answer is that a dog’s hearing is several times better than a human. This sense is sharply developed, allowing them to hear an approaching storm long before we do. In fact, a dog may have hearing up to five times better than ours. So is it any wonder they hate fireworks?
At what distance can a dog hear?
It’s difficult to say exactly what distances a dog can hear, because there are so many other factors involved. The general consensus is that a dog can hear sound from up to a mile away. This is incredible, especially compared to human hearing.
The reason for this is due to their complicated ears. A quick glance will show you that a dog’s ear is very different from our ears. Dogs have 18 muscles in the pinna, or outer ear, that function to capture sound. These muscles allow the dog to move the ear, which is how they can pinpoint these far away noises. All those muscles work together to hear the sound, and find where it is.
A dog’s ear is very complicated, so it needs to be kept in good health. As dog owners, it’s our responsibility to keep the ears clean.
Prick up your ears
When a dog has heard something you haven’t, they have several physical tells to look out for.
The first is the movement of the ear. A dog can seem perfectly relaxed, and then you notice their ears twitching. Next, the head pops up, and the ears perk up.
When this happens, it means your dog has heard something. At home, you may notice this behavior whenever a cat crosses the yard. The ears pricking up is a clear indicator your dog is aware of a sound.
This explains why your dog may start barking for no reason. At least, it’s no reason to us. Instead, your dog has heard something that they’ve found startling, and are letting us know.
Other dogs may sit up, or start moving about, depending on their temperament. A dog may turn to you for protection, or try to warn you against the noise. All of this, for something that could be as far as a mile away!
Frequencies and your dog’s hearing
Hearing is built around frequencies, which are vibrations in the ear that are processed as sound. The different level of a frequency wavelength translates to pitch, and is measured in Hertz (Hz). A low pitch wavelength has a lower frequency, or number of Hertz. The higher the Hertz, the higher the pitch. A dog can hear better than us, so it makes sense that the frequencies they hear are different.
Dogs can hear low frequencies around the same amount as humans. Although humans can sometimes hear slightly lower sounds.
It’s the higher pitched noises where a dog really shines. A human can hear a frequency of roughly 20,000Hz. A dog, on the other hand, can hear frequencies as high as 47,000 to 65,000Hz. That’s a range far greater than ours.
Sometimes, your dog may be reacting to a nearby sound that’s completely out of our frequency range.
Dogs’ ears are also more sensitive at certain frequencies. At sounds between 3,000Hz and 12,000Hz, dogs and humans can hear the same noises, but dogs can hear them better.
They’re also incredibly talented at telling pitch apart, even better than humans.
How will a dog react to a human voice?
The average frequency of a male human voice is 125Hz, whereas for a woman it’s 200Hz. This means your dog may have a better time hearing a woman voice over a man. Especially if you’re a man with a particularly low baritone.
If you’re calling for your dog, you may have found they respond better to a higher pitched voice. This is because they can hear it better. Dogs may respond better to a woman’s voice because it falls better in the range of frequencies they hear.
Why use a whistle to train a dog?
A whistle produces a higher pitched sound than the average human voice. This means that it’s easier for a dog to hear and respond to. Working dogs are often trained using whistles because they can hear them from a long distance away. Your dog may be able to hear a whistle from up to 400 yards.
What are silent whistles?
If you’ve ever used a silent dog whistle, you may have felt a bit silly. When you blow on them, it seems as though nothing happens. Except, suddenly your dog comes running over.
This is because these whistles are specially made to create a very high-pitched sound. This is beyond the range of hearing for humans, but crystal clear to your dogs sensitive ears.
Always be careful when using any type of whistle around your dog. They can damage the inner ear if used too loudly or too close. Be especially careful with silent whistles. As we can’t hear the sound, it’s easy to assume they made no sound at all, so we keep on blowing. Before using one of these whistles, discuss it with a vet to be extra safe.
From what distance can a dog hear thunder?
There’s no clear answer to how far away a dog can hear thunder. Sound isn’t measured in distance, but in Hertz and decibels. Plus, there’s more than just sound to alert a dog to a thunderstorm. Barometric pressures, smells, and even static build up might warn a dog of a thunderstorm. However, with their keen hearing, a dog may be able to know a storm is coming 15 to 20 minutes before it arrives.
The barometric pressure can be felt across the dog’s coat, as it produces static electricity. This may be making your dog feel uncomfortable as a thunderstorm approaches.
As well as hearing, dogs can smell up to 20 times better than humans. When a thunderstorm approaches, a dog can smell the rain from miles away.
With these strange smells, sounds, and feelings, it’s no wonder a dog may dislike a thunderstorm. Keep an eye out for signs of anxiety, especially if a thunderstorm is forecast. Behaviors such as pacing, howling, trembling, or panting can all indicate a nervous dog.
If your dog doesn’t like thunderstorms, find them a place to hide and bundle them up. You can even add calming music to their safe space, to drown out the sound of thunder.
Lots of people find thunderstorms scary, so you can begin to imagine how much worse it is for a dog. Every loud bang of thunder that shocks us is even louder for our dogs’ delicate ears.
How well do dogs hear fireworks?
Dogs can hear fireworks incredibly well, and they can find them very scary. Fireworks produce a high-pitched noise, which the intelligent ear of a dog can hear clearly. The sounds are also quite close, especially compared to thunder. This all results in a sudden very loud noise that a dog doesn’t understand.
It isn’t just the sound that scares your dog, either. Fireworks give off bright lights and unusual smells, both of which can be distressing for a dog. Dogs’ senses are highly attuned, so the commotion of a fireworks show can be very stressful.
Because dogs can hear from so far away, they may be hearing fireworks you aren’t aware of. Remember, distant bangs that you can hear will be much louder for a dog. If you know your dog hates fireworks, you should be particularly careful around holiday events. Just because you aren’t lighting any, doesn’t mean your neighbors will restrain.
Give your dog a comfortable place to wait it out, and remain calm around them.
Can my dog recognize my voice?
Yes, studies show that dogs are able to recognize our voices. Dog’s ears are very sensitive to tone and pitch, so they can identify the unique differences between voices. This isn’t surprising, but what may be surprising is they can remember the voices.
A dog is aware of the tones in your voice, and this is primarily how they understand our conversations with them. They know the voice you use when you’re happy, and the voice you use when you’re sad. So there is some science behind that doggy voice so many of us put on to tell our pets we love them.
Similarly, a dog will know if they’ve been bad partly because of the tone you used to tell them off.
So, from how far away can your dog hear your voice? Possibly, up to 80 feet. And even across many miles. More accurately, they can hear you down the phone! If you’ve been away for a while, and you decide to FaceTime with your dog, they can hear you and know who you are.
Why do dogs hear so well?
A domesticated dog may not seem to have much use for their super-hearing, unless you particularly enjoy being warned over the postman well before he approaches your house. In the wild, it was a totally different story.
The dogs incredible hearing makes them fantastic predators, as they can sense their prey. It also allows them to communicate with the pack across distances. Even hearing thunderstorms has its uses. Wild wolves have been shown to take shelter from an oncoming storm well before it’s upon them.
This wolf ancestry also explains why a dog can recognize your tone. The alpha wolf will communicate with the pack using yips and whines. The pack wolves will understand the intention. Over the centuries, humans learned to use this on domesticated dogs to give orders. Now we use it to show our dogs how much we love them!
Your dog’s ears are incredible. They allow your pet to hear over massive distances, and sense things we have no idea about. If your dog likes barking at nothing, they’ve probably spotted something well out of our hearing range.