Dogs hear better than we humans do, and they can perceive higher frequencies - meaning they can hear things that we can’t. For instance, a squeak of a mouse is above our hearing frequency, but dogs can hear these little rodents just fine!
But how about things that we usually don’t even think make sounds? Let's take electricity, for instance. Can your dog hear an electric fence or evem the electrical appliances in your home? Electricity gives off a specific frequency we don’t hear. So can our dogs hear it?
Signs Your Dog Can Hear Electricity
Dogs detect a wider range of frequencies, so it begs the question, how many things can our dogs actually hear that we can’t? If you have ever observed your dog for a longer time, you surely know that they tend to raise their ears and listen, even when there is no sound. What this actually means is that you’re the one who can’t hear the sound, but your dog can.
You have surely heard a hum of an electric fence if you have ever encountered one, and this is just a much louder example of what is going on around us. Here are some of the signs your dog might exhibit if they hear an electrical current.
Listening – when your dog detects a sound, they will listen and try to determine where it’s coming from. Thanks to their keen senses, they can pinpoint the source rather well. When they listen in, they also try to determine if this might be some kind of threat.
Raised ears – as mentioned, you might notice your dog raising and turning their ears as if they are listening. Even if you can’t hear the sound, it doesn’t mean it’s not there; only that you can’t hear it because it’s not in your hearing range. Raised ears help your dog determine the source of the sounds accurately.
Barking – your dog might start barking at the sound they hear, especially if they are unsure about the origin or intent.
Alert – in addition to raising ears and listening, your dog will become alert as they are trying to determine where the sound is coming from. Should this sound be out of your hearing range, you will not be able to determine what made your dog alert, but looking around might help you find possible sources.
The sound can also cause discomfort or pain to your dog. This depends on how loud the sound is, and what frequency it has. When near an electricity source, look for the following signs that might indicate discomfort:
Ears dropping – sounds that have frequencies that scare or hurt your dog will result in dropped ears, as your dog will try to avoid the sound at any costs, even by running away from the source.
Whining – this is a common response if something is scaring your dog or hurting them. If a sound is hurting their ears, they will try to get away. If this happens near electric fences, try to avoid them as much as possible.
Cowering – your dog will cower to try to make the sound stop. This is a natural response to anything they perceive as an attack. By cowering, they appear smaller, and hope the aggressor will stop with the attack.
History of Dogs Hearing Electricity
Thanks to their ancestors, your dog’s sense of smell and hearing are their highest developed senses. Having a companion that can smell or hear danger, or help you find food and other people, has proven to be a great advantage.
Today, dogs are trained in a number of ways, from companion dogs to service dogs that help police officers by sniffing out clues, victims, and culprits, all the way to dogs that rely on their hearing to find people in disaster areas.
A dog’s hearing is so good because of their preferred prey from long ago: mice and similar vermin. Hearing them and being able to pinpoint their exact location has proven advantageous. Because an animal’s senses always develop to aid them, a dog’s hearing developed in such a way that they can easily detect various frequencies.
That being said, historically, dogs have only been able to hear electricity since it became harnessed by man. This is because natural electrical occurrences are usually not loud enough or are deep in the ground or rock.
Science of Dogs Hearing Electricity
So what exactly do such sensitive ears mean for the various frequencies emitted around our dogs? There are all kinds of sounds, that we are blissfully unaware of, that our canine friends have to deal with on a daily basis. Is electricity one such sound?
Humans, for instance, can hear sounds in the 20 to 20,000 Hz range, but dogs can hear between 40 and 60,000 Hz. While we excel in low frequencies, they definitely beat us in the higher ones. This also means that they hear much more than we do.
So how does electricity fare against their hearing?
You might have noticed that some electric appliances emit a certain type of hum. While many think that they can actually hear electricity because of this, it’s a misconception. People and dogs alike can’t actually hear the electric current. The thing that they hear are components in electric circuits that vibrate because of the electric current.
The high-pitched sound that you hear when you turn on or plug in some of your electric appliances isn’t the sound of electric current—it’s actually the sound of some electrical component that vibrates mechanically because of the magnetic field that’s created by the electric current.
Therefore, dogs can’t actually hear electricity, but they can hear the vibrations in various components of the electric circuit that are caused by the electricity.
Training Dogs Based on Their Hearing
Your dog will respond well to various commands, thanks to their great hearing, and you can train them to listen more intently, but you are unlikely to be able to teach them how to hear electricity. They either will or they won't
But using electricity itself is not advised. Shock collars, for example, are a method of training that is used, but they can have negative effects on your dog, even causing them to lash out, not to mention the physical pain that is created by these collars. It is best to encourage trust and respect during training rather than that of fear.
Written by Charlotte Ratcliffe
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 06/04/2018, edited: 04/06/2020