Ever look at your dog and they're just standing there, staring at the wall with their head tilted to the side? You call their name and they don't respond, seeming to be paying attention to nothing, ignoring you and everything else around them.
Don't worry, your house (probably!) isn't haunted, and neither you nor your dog is losing your mind. The answer may be worse, depending on how you feel about rodents!
The fact is, your dog's sense of hearing is so much better than yours that they may be hearing something that you can't, which can include mice. So if your dog is standing there, staring at the wall or a corner of a room and you can't pinpoint exactly what it is that they're paying attention to, it may just unfortunately be that you have an uninvited mousey guest in the house - one that your dog can hear scurrying around while you may not be able to.
Signs Your Dog is Listening to a Mouse
When your dog is listening to something that you can't hear, it may look kind of weird, since they're super alert and paying attention to seemingly nothing. Signs your dog is listening to something and is alert can include ears pointing forward, or even swiveling from side to side, depending on the breed and how flexible their ears are.
Your dog may also tilt their head from side to side, or cock it in one direction. Both of these behavior traits are your dog's attempt not only at trying to figure out what a sound is, but where exactly it's coming from.
The rest of their body will probably be relatively still, since they don't want to startle what they're hearing and don't want to add other sounds that may interrupt their figuring-out what the sound is. Woofers that are listening to something will close their mouths to reduce sound, and their eyes will be wide and searching, as they're trying to figure out where a noise is coming from.
How your dog reacts to the sound once they figure out it's a mouse will depend on whether or not they want to eat it or just play with it! In regards to mice, your dog will probably react with excitement. Once they figure out that the sound that they're hearing is a mouse, they may run to the area that they're hearing the mouse in an attempt to chase or catch it.
They may also bark at the spot, scratch at the wall, or cry because they can't reach their new friend! Dogs normally aren't afraid of mice, so you'll probably notice a tail wag here and there, as well as play bowing or other friendly behavior, or maybe even teeth snapping, depending on whether or not they want to play with the mouse or just plain eat it!
The History Behind Dogs Hearing Mice
Many of us know that our woofers, as sweet and domesticated as they are now, evolved from wolves thousands of years ago. Before we got to them, their lives weren't as easy as they are now!
These days, we feed our dogs in the morning and at night, and they can usually expect a yummy meal daily. Back then, though, wolves had to hunt for their food. Their prey included deer, squirrels, rabbits, and yes, mice. Many of these animals are known for being really quiet, so wolves had to evolve in a way that allowed for them to hear their dinners from miles away so that they wouldn't starve.
As a result, our pooches' have retained this ability, at least somewhat, and can still hear mice in places like the walls of our homes. Even though they don't have to fight for their food anymore, that doesn't mean that they've lost their ability to hear it!
The Science Behind Dogs' Hearing
Dogs' hearing ability is significantly better than ours. Not only can they hear 2 times better than we can, but their range is way better than ours too! Specifically, studies have shown that "dogs hear a frequency range of 40 to 60,000 Hz while human range is between 20 and 20,000 Hz." This basically means that dogs can hear sounds that our ears just can't.
Woofers' ears are built also physically built in a way that allows them to hear better than us. In humans, our ears are usually flat and relatively small in relation to the rest of our heads.
For doggos, especially certain breeds, their ears are large in relation to the rest of their heads, and can usually be found at the top, coming away from the head. Some breeds also have higher flexibility in their ears, because they have more muscles there. These breeds are better able to swivel their ears alone without moving the rest of their head or body.
Training Your Dog to Hear Mice
If you want your dog to be able to hear mice, it's helpful to know whether or not you actually have them! Positive reinforcement is the best way to train your dog to do anything. So if your dog suddenly stops and identifies a sound that you later find out is a mouse, make sure to reward them with a treat and a pet!
The more you do this, the more they'll associate hearing and identifying mice with good things that they love. If you don't have mice but want your dog to be able to identify them in case you get them in the future, try using videos or sound effects. Play them randomly throughout the house, and when your dog runs over and identifies them, make sure to reward them. That way, they'll be used to hearing that sound, and will be able to identify it quickly if a mouse ever dares to enter your home!
By Katherine McCormick
Published: 04/27/2018, edited: 04/06/2020