Does your canine turn his head and perk up his ears out of the blue? They may have become clearly alert and aware of some unheard noise. Perhaps with high pitched whistles, sirens, or vacuums they run away in fear. Animals are often more perceptive to sounds than humans but few as much so as a canine. They can hear a far wider range of sounds and from much greater distances. Dogs are renowned for their sense of hearing and specific dog training tools often use high pitched, often inaudible, noises to adjust dog behavior. Why are they so sensitive to auditory sensations? What different tools exist and how can you use them in your canine's training? How well do these tools work?
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs have roughly three times the hearing capability of a human. Sounds that may seem acceptable to us, or even go unheard, can be deafening to them. Their wider range of hearing capability allows them to hear sounds at a higher frequency then the human ear can perceive and the cone-like shape of the ear allows them to focus and zone in on specific sounds which may be far off. This being said, it is easy to see why dogs would fear and run from different devices in your household that produce a lot of noise. Vacuums are commonly known to frighten canines but it can be anything from a lawnmower to fireworks that might specifically set your dog off. Providing a relatively noise-free environment or playing soft music to cloud out the noises from these devices can go a long way to reducing your dog's stress or fear when these things are going.
Being as crafty as humans can be, we have crafted devices that can replicate these higher pitched sounds to be used for training tools. The most well known of these tools may be the dog whistle. A dog whistle produces a high-frequency sound that can barely be heard to the human ear but cuts through the sky and is heard far away by a dog. This is what makes them an exceptional training tool as it can get your dogs attention from extremely long distances. Other common tools include a high pitched bark collar which produces a loud high-frequency sound whenever your dog is barking in an attempt to dissuade them from continuing. These are safer then shock collars and the sound created would likely be inaudible to the human ear. The pitch of these sounds prevent any damage to the canines hearing and should not contribute to any deafness.
Encouraging the Behavior
Using these items as training tools can be extremely helpful. For instance, blowing a dog whistle when it is time to come inside and then giving them a treat when they come in will quickly teach your dog to come inside whenever you blow that whistle. Soon enough they will not even need any treats for returning, but only for initially installing that behavior. However, outside of training tools, high pitched sounds can scare your dog or at least cause a great deal of anxiety. Having an area they can retreat to can make a big difference in how your dog reacts to these sounds.
Many dog owners use their kennel for this type of thing and many dogs like that method. Leaving a blanket they enjoy or a toy or two to entertain them will make this spot a great place for them to relax in and reduce their anxiety. This is called denning, and places like these feel comforting and safe to a canine. For sounds they do not hear every day that gives them stress, such as fireworks, there are audio tracks you can buy to desensitize your dog to these noises. They essentially play the sounds a firework would make on repeat, which will eventually make your dog less fearful of them. When using audio tracks like these, be sure to keep the volume to a degree that will not hurt your dog's ears and overload their hearing. Exceptionally loud noises can cause hearing impairment.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Overall, auditory training is very useful and effective and we use it every day whether we know it or not. Each time you call your dog to you or tell them to sit, it is a form of auditory training. Using tools specifically designed for a canine hearing just goes to aide in the process. These high pitched noises can be heard very easily for dogs as they are not produced as often by nature. Canine hearing is one of their sharper senses and it is designed to aid them in the protection from predators and locating prey. Although they are typically safe from predators nowadays and are probably not participating in any kind of hunt, we have adapted our knowledge of canine hearing to create training aids that work just a bit better.
They will likely remain afraid of the vacuum if that is their current fear. These loud noises scare them because they hurt, like it would if someone played an instrument right by your ear. Forcing them to stay beside the vacuum until they are no longer scared of it is not a good idea, these were not designed as training tools and depending on the pitch and volume of your vacuum, could cause hearing damage over time.
Written by a Malamute Husky lover Robert Potter
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 03/09/2018, edited: 01/30/2020