Can Dogs Hear Dolphins?

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Introduction

You’ve probably seen it when your dog has picked up on a sound that you’ve not been able to hear. This is down to the fact that dog and human hearing differs and dogs are able to hear sounds that are 45,000 Hertz (Hz) while we hear at only 23,000 Hz. 

When it comes to dolphins, we know that humans are able to hear them, so it’s clear that a dog will be able to too. So why do dogs have such great hearing?

Signs Dogs can Hear Dolphins

It’s usually pretty easy to spot when your dog has heard something that is not within your hearing range. For example, your dog will raise their ears and tilt their head so that they can locate the source of the sound.

Depending on the type of sound and whether or not your dog has read it as friendly or threatening will depend on what he does next. 

In a situation where they’ve heard something that doesn’t really interest them, they may just raise an eyebrow, sigh, and lay back down. If the sounds, however, are interesting or threatening in any way, then you may see your dog go into high alert, raise their head, and follow the sound to investigate it further. Additionally, you may see your dog growl, bark, whimper, or wag their tail.

In the case of dolphins, dogs that have encountered them before will probably be excited, wagging their tail, barking and whimpering (particularly those who want to jump in with them). Those that haven't met or heard dolphins before may be on high alert, staring intently and sniffing a lot to try and figure out what they are hearing.  

Body Language

Some signs your dog is hearing a dolphin are:
  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Wag tail
  • Sniffing
  • Ears up

Other Signs

More clues that prove your dog is hearing a dolphin are:
  • Looking towards the water
  • Sniffing in the direction of the dolphin
  • Excited behavior

History Behind Dogs and Dolphins

An animal’s senses are vital when it comes to them living in the wild, as this is their key to survival. Wolves are the ancestors of the dogs that we now know, and they needed to be able to detect any danger from a distance, as this was very important to ensure their survival. 

Aside from having an amazing sense of smell, wolves also have astounding hearing that helped them to be the impressive hunters that they are. This leads us to ask why dogs have evolved to hear high frequencies? In essence, this has evolved so that they are able to spot where a sound is coming, and this process is referred to as binaural spectral-difference cueing. This enables them to compare a sound as it hits them in each individual ear.

In the wild, dogs, wolves and dolphins didn't naturally cross paths, so it was unlikely that they historically had any relationship.  

Science Behind Dogs and Dolphins

When it comes to dolphins, scientists know that they make sounds that fall into three main categories: whistles, clicks, and chirps.

Whistles are sounds that are individual to each animal group, just as voices are individual to humans. Dolphins use these whistles similar to the way that we use names. You can hear a whistle from one dolphin and another dolphin will respond with a similar whistle, which usually indicates that they are saying ‘hello’ or greeting each other.

Clicks are usually used as a form of echolocation. Echolocation is used to find food and works like a radar does. Dolphins make this clicking sound, and this travels through the water and hits something (for instance, a fish), and this echo is then heard by the dolphin.

The reason for the chirp sounds is not known, but we do know that their tones vary in frequency.

These three sounds that dolphins make are within the range of humans, so dogs can definitely hear them. Clicks range up to approximately 150,000Hz (which is eight times higher than a human hearing range). Many clicks are at low frequencies at 2,000 HZ so humans are able to hear them with no problem and without the use of an underwater microphone.

A dog has 18 muscles in their ears and therefore they can tilt, rotate, and wiggle them to be able to hone in on a sound. A human only has 6 muscles and a smaller range of movement with their ears. It’s clear why a dog can hear sounds that we can’t, as they can hear sounds up to 45,000HZ and we can only hear sounds up to 23,000 HZ. However, when it comes to sounds at the other end of the range, we can pick up sounds at 20HZ where a dog’s lower limit is 40HZ.

Training a Dog to Listen

Anyone who has tried to train a puppy will be all too aware of selective deafness. Similar to children, there are times when dogs only hear what they want to, and choose to continue to do what they want instead of what you want them to do.

If you want your dog to listen to you, then you need to be able to teach your dog that there are benefits to listening to what you are saying. For example, if you reward your dog with a nice treat, you will soon see that they give you their attention. It won’t be long before they realize that you are their priority as you give them what they like. 

Alternatively, if you have a pet that isn’t so bothered about treats related to food, then you can look at reward options related to play or praise. What is important is that you are patient and calm and never get cross or angry. 

You need to remain consistent. Begin training when your dog is a puppy, and this way, you have the best chance of training your dog to ignore high-frequency sounds that are distractions and focus on the sounds that you want them to.

What to do when your dog hears something that you can’t hear:

  1. Watch your dog carefully and look out for any signs that may indicate that your dog is in discomfort or pain.

  2. Look at where your dog is looking to see if you can work out where the sound is coming from.

  3. You can use a training tool that enables you to access your dog’s skill of being able to hear high frequency sounds.  

How to React to Your Dog Hearing Dolphins:

  • Respond to your dog's alert and look around for the dolphins.
  • Make sure your dog does not jump in the water to investigate the dolphins.