Can Dogs Hear From Far Away?

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Introduction

How strong is your dog's sense of hearing? This is a question plenty of dog owners would struggle to answer. After all, our pooches seem to have no trouble picking up the sound of food hitting their dinner bowl or a key unlocking the front door, but they're also seemingly struck down by momentary deafness when we tell them this is the last game of fetch or that it's time to pack up and head home from the dog park.

With this in mind, you might be surprised to learn that dogs can hear sounds from a distance up to four times greater than what you can detect. But what is it that makes the ears of our canine companions so adept at hearing such a long way? Let's take a closer look.

Signs Your Dog Can Hear Something

If you're wondering what signs indicate that your dog has detected a sound outside your hearing range, the ears have it! Canine ears can be long and floppy, short and erect, or anything in between, but they're often a surefire indicator of the fact that your pooch has heard something.

Your dog's outer ear has 18 muscles that are specially designed to help him point it in the right direction, and rotate just the right way to capture sounds. You could be sitting in silence when you notice your dog's ears stand to attention, or maybe move this way and that as he narrows in on the source of a particular sound.

Depending on the sound, this may be followed by a range of body language signals. For example, if the dog feels threatened by or anxious of the sound, they may tense up, bark or growl, their tail may go erect, and they may stare intently in the direction the sound is coming from. If they're curious, the ear movement could be accompanied by a distinctive head tilt, and perhaps moving closer to the source of the sound to investigate.

Of course, in other circumstances your dog might do nothing more than raise an eyebrow, let out a sigh, and then drift back off to sleep.

Body Language

Check your dog's body language for signs that she has detected a sound, such as:
  • Growling
  • Alert
  • Head tilting
  • Listening
  • Ears up
  • Stiff tail

Other Signs

Other signs that can indicate your dog ahs picked up a sound include:
  • Ears Moving
  • Moving to Investigate Source of Sound
  • Sniffing in Direction of Sound
  • Staring in Direction of Sound

The Science of Your Dog's Sense of Hearing

The secret to your dog's impressive hearing power is found inside his ear. Canine ears are actually made up of three key parts:
  • The outer ear is home to the pinna, which is the part of the ear that sticks out from your dog's head. It's specially shaped to capture and amplify sounds and funnel them through to the eardrum. Dogs have a much longer ear canal than humans, and this allows them to hear approximately four times better than the average person.
  • The middle ear is where you'll find the eardrum and a small chamber containing three tiny bones: the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. The eustachian tube, which allows air to enter the middle ear through the back of the nose, is also found here.
  • The inner ear contains the cochlea, better known as the hearing organ, and the vestibular system that provides your pet's balance.

As we touched on above, dogs have 18 muscles in their ears that allow them to be rotated and tilted in whatever direction necessary to capture sounds. By way of comparison, our ears only have six muscles and we certainly can't rotate or swivel them the way our pooches can.

Science has also revealed that while the average human can generally hear sounds pitched between 20Hz and 20,000Hz, dogs can hear pitches between 40Hz and 60,000Hz. Both dogs and humans lose some of our ability to hear sounds in higher frequencies as we get older, but the higher frequency range of dogs explains how they can pick up the sound produced by high-pitched dog whistles that don't even register to our ears.

Training Your Dog to Listen to You

Does your dog suffer from selective deafness? Does she only hear you when she wants to and then completely tunes you out whenever it suits her? This can be incredibly frustrating, but there's plenty you can do to help remedy the situation.

The key thing to remember is that you need to make it worth your dog's while to pay attention and listen to what you say. This is where a rewards-based training system yields results — by offering your pet a treat, praise, or even their favorite toy when they do what you say, they'll soon come to associate following your commands with good things.

Training your dog to respond to your commands is also vital. Start slowly by teaching the basics, including "sit",  "stay", and "come", remembering to offer plenty of rewards along the way. It's also a good idea to start training in a no-distraction environment and, once your pet has a solid command of the basics, you can move your training sessions to somewhere with interesting sights, sound, smells, and people that your dog will need to learn to block out so they can focus on you.

Remember, your dog's desire to listen to you isn't just about putting an end to those frustrating and embarrassing situations when your pooch completely ignores you; it's also about safety. Your dog needs to be able to respond to your requests at all time, such as coming when called rather than pretending not to hear you and running out onto a busy road.

But with a calm and patient approach, you can teach your pooch to put his powerful sense of hearing to good use.

How to Cope With Dog Hearing Loss

  • Don't despair. Hearing loss doesn't have to mean a reduced quality of life for your pet. By making a few simple changes, you can help your dog live a long, happy, and healthy life.
  • Monitor your dog's activity. Deaf dogs can't hear traffic and a wide range of other potential dangers, so make sure you keep a close eye on your pooch any time she's not on a leash or in a fenced yard.
  • Use hand signals. You might be surprised just how capable a deaf dog is of following hand signals. Your dog can use his eyesight to interpret visual commands, so speak to a trusted dog trainer about how to get started.
  • Approach with caution. It can be quite easy to startle a deaf dog, especially if they're asleep. Give your pet a chance to detect your scent first rather than just barging in to say hello.