Can Dogs Hear 20,000 Hz?

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Introduction

When it comes to what your pup can hear, you won't believe the range! Your dog most likely can hear about 40 Hz to about 60,000 Hz, making the question of, "Can my dog hear 20,000" pretty well answered. 

To put that into perspective, humans hear of a range about 20Hz to about 20,000 Hz - so, hearing up to 20,000Hz is definitely maxing out our human limits. Dogs can hear at a much higher frequency than we can, although, almost every dog (aside from those who struggle with hearing loss) will be able to hear perfectly at about 20,000 Hz. 

Typically, frequencies that hurt your dog's ears will range from 20,000 Hz and on, with 25,000 typically being the mark that begins really to irritate your pup. That being said, sounds that range from 23,000 to about 25,000 will likely be tolerable to your pup. 

Being that we can't hear what our dogs are hearing, how can we tell when they're listening to something? It's important to be on the lookout for specific signs that your dog might be hearing something you probably can't at 20,000 Hz. Luckily, we've laid out a list of ways you might be able to detect that your dog is hearing something at 20,000 Hz (or above) that you can't!

Signs Your Dog is Hearing Something out of Your Frequency

When it comes to doggo listening, it's always possible they're hearing something that's just a touch out of your frequency. For humans, that starts at about 20,000 Hz, depending on personal hearing issues. So, how can you tell when your dog is hearing something that you can't? Luckily, dogs give off plenty of signs when they hear something, so you'll likely be able to pinpoint their behavior without being able to hear the thing they're listening to. 

For example, when dogs hear something, they'll use their ears and ear muscles to strategically position their ears toward the sound in order to get a better idea of what they're listening to. This means that their ears will twitch, cock up, fold down, or position toward the sound they're hearing. Ears are one of the most obvious signs when it comes to hearing frequencies that you might not be able to hear. 

Your dog also might instantly become alert toward the noise and try to hunt it down, they might follow the sound, or they might become defensive, barking, growling, and showing other aggressive behavior. It's also possible that they'll simply show excitement and enthusiasm, running to wherever they hear the sound coming from, bounding along, bouncing up and down, and sniffing excitedly.

Body Language

See if your dog is exhibiting these body language clues if you suspect that he or she is hearing something you cannot:
  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Head tilting
  • Wag tail
  • Tail up
  • Ears up

Other Signs

Here are a few other signs to look out for if you suspect your dog is hearing at a frequency you cannot:
  • Twitching, rotating, or perking ears
  • Running around to investigate
  • Looking off into the distance

The History of Dogs Hearing Things

Dogs have been known for a long time for their ability to hear much higher frequencies than people can, and this has historically been implemented into training recommendations and methods for dogs. 

The first type of dog whistle can be dated back to 1876 and was invented by Francis Galton. This whistle, named the Galton's whistle, naturally, is a type of whistle that emits sound in the ultrasonic range, which people cannot hear, but dogs and cats, can. Galton created this whistle to experiment on which range of frequencies could be heard by the modern-day house pet. 

To human ears, the whistle only made a quiet, hissing sound, but for dogs, this often emits a loud, irritating noise. People, trainers especially, have since used this method of frequency harnessing to train and command dogs without irritating people nearby.

The Science Behind Frequencies and Your Dog

Have you ever wondered why dogs are able to hear at different, broader frequencies than humans can? A lot of their skills has to do with the shape of their ear canals, as well as the muscles that make up their ears, too. 

For example, dogs have about 18 muscles in their ears that let them rotate, wiggle, tilt, and adjust each ear toward the direction they need to capture sounds. Us humans have 6 muscles in each ear, and they definitely don't rotate like a dog's will. 

It also helps that pups have a much longer ear canal than we do. This helpful, lengthy canal enables your dog to pick up on sounds that are more than four times farther from the sounds you can pick up - you're starting to envy your dog's ears, aren't you? Because of their skills, dogs are much more adept at picking up high frequency sounds than we are, however, they're still at risk of losing that razor-sharp hearing as they age.

Training Your Dog to Better Their Listening Skills

Before we get started explaining how dog whistles work and how you can potentially implement them in your dog's training, we suggest getting both the opinion and approval of your dog's vet before proceeding. Dogs' hearing abilities are grand, but dogs also have sensitive ears, and if it's possible that a dog whistle training regimen will have a negative or harmful effect on your dog, you should by no means proceed with this type of training.

Dog whistles work in an interesting way, though, and many trainers opt to use them to help dogs modify their behavior. A dog whistle frequency is optimized to produce sounds at or above 20,000 Hz, making it inaudible to the human ear, but plenty audible to a healthy, normal-hearing dog. Using a whistle, however, won't guarantee that your dog will be properly trained.

First, you need to pick up a set of whistle commands to act as a cue for your dog. One long blow on the whistle could be "sit" and one short blow could be "stay." It's up to you and what works best for your dog. Then, to help your dog learn, you need to pair up the whistle command with a voice or gesture command they already know. Gradually, as they get better, stop using a vocal or gesture command and simply pair up the whistle command. When your dog does this correctly, reward them generously. 

How to React if Your Dog Hears Something You Can't:

  • Don't panic.
  • Work with your dog to help you understand what he or she is hearing.
  • Follow your dog toward the sound they might be detecting.
  • Use training tools to help your dog let you know what they're hearing, rather than just barking, biting, or running after the source.
  • Don't punish your dog for alerting you to a sound that you might not be able to hear.