Can Dogs Hear Over the Phone?

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Introduction

Have you ever wondered if your dog can hear you over the phone? There's plenty of videos on YouTube featuring dogs having FaceTime, Skype calls or phone calls with their owners. In many of these videos, it seems that dogs do indeed recognize the person on the screen, or at least their voice. They often get super-excited when they hear their owner’s voice, especially if it has been a while since they have last heard from them.

Everyone knows dogs have a very sensitive sense of smell, but how good is their hearing? Do they really recognize your voice over the phone? 

Signs Your Dog Hears You Over the Phone

Humans can hear a range from 20 to 20,000 Hz. A frequency above or below this range will not be heard, but it can be felt (for instance, bass in the song). As we get older, the range shrinks too, which is why children can often hear high pitches that adults are oblivious to.

Dogs, however, can hear from 40 Hz to 60,000 Hz but this can vary somewhat between breeds. So, their range is broader than ours. Another reason for their good hearing is that they have better mobility of their ears, and can focus on sound by turning their ears to more easily locate the source of the sound and identify it.

So, when a dog hears your voice over the phone, they could well be able to recognize it. These are some of the signs they’ll exhibit if they do.

Alert – When your dog hears your voice, they will become alert, as they can hear you, but can’t see you. If you are in a video call, chances that your dog will recognize your face are low, as the screen is quite small and the quality is often low. If the sound quality is good, your dog might recognize your voice, and they will try to figure out where it’s coming from.

Whining – In case your dog recognizes your voice, they might start whining because they are overexcited. Because they can’t grasp the concept of phones, they might become anxious because your voice is there, but you aren’t. They can’t see or smell you.

Jumping up – Another sign your dog is (over)excited when they recognize your voice over the phone is jumping up and down or sprinting around the apartment, especially if you use phrases they recognize, like “Do you wanna go for a walk?"

Sniffing – the dog will probably sniff the phone because they associate your voice with your smell, but can’t seem to understand why your voice is coming from that device when you clearly aren’t there.

Pacing – the dog might, upon recognizing your voice, start pacing around, as they are unable to sense you in other ways (see, smell), so this might confuse them quite a lot.

If your dog doesn’t recognize your voice, they will probably show no interest at all. This has more to do with the fact that the range of the speaker is limited to accommodate only the human hearing range, and most often, this range is narrowed down to save bandwidth, so your phone voice has a much lower quality. 

Body Language

Your pooch will give you some signs if they recognize your voice over the phone, including:
  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Jumping up
  • Pacing
  • Sniffing

Other Signs

A few other cues to watch for are:
  • Coming over to the phone
  • Staring at the phone
  • Pawing

History of Dogs' Hearing

Your dog’s hearing is one of their best senses, aside from smell. Humans saw this as a huge advantage very early on, and this was one of the reasons why they started domesticating dogs. Their senses were better and they could warn if there was danger nearby.

The dog’s wolf ancestors also utilized their hearing in hunting. Thousands of years ago, vermin played a big role in their diet, so having such a broad hearing range helped them hear all the high-pitched squeals and squeaks. Not only could they hear such high frequencies, they could also hear them from great distances, which helped them become such good hunters. Even though scientists believe that dogs have lost some of their hearing range when compared to their ancestors, their hearing is still one of their best senses and today, a dog’s sense of smell and hearing are utilized in search and rescue missions.

Obviously phones are still fairly new technology in the scheme of things but it is easy to see how quickly dogs have adapted!

Science of Dog’s Sense of Hearing

Some interesting facts pertaining to the dogs hearing is that there are some differences between breeds when it comes to hearing range. Hunting breeds, for instance, will often have better hearing, although these differences can be very subtle.  

The dog’s ear shape also plays a role. Dogs with upright ears will often hear better than those with floppy ears and just like their human counterparts who lose higher frequencies as they get older, so do dogs. Your 10 year old senior dog will not be able to hear all the sounds a 1 year old canine can. 

Training Dogs Using Their Hearing

Hearing plays a key role in specialty training for dogs and can help train them to perform a number of duties. Service dogs, for instance, are trained from very early on to respond to specific commands that enable them to help their human companions in one way or another. Police and military dogs are trained to assist soldiers and officers and help them on all sorts of missions and their keen hearing helps them find perpetrators much faster. 

Unsurprisingly, dog training apps can be useful and as dogs can hear your voice over the phone it could be an excellent way to train them. Just don’t forget about the human touch! 

Safety Tips for Dogs and Phones:

  • Artificial or very loud sounds can damage your dog's hearing, so make sure when using the phone that it isn't for prolonged periods of time or that it isn't at high volume.
  • Never leave your dog unsupervised with your phone.