Can Dogs Hear Singing?

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Introduction

It seems that people have been singing from the beginning of time. There is a deep release of emotions of burden, grief, or joy in the experience of singing. 

The act of singing involves vocalizations of varying pitch and rhythm. It is a basic experience that can be personal or shared. The dog equivalent of singing is the howl. Dogs are so talented at joining into the sounds of song that they will raise their voices in howls. There are lots of funny videos on the internet of dogs howling along to the singing of their owners. There have even been broadway performances based on the howling of dogs. 

With the canine's ability to join into song, it is obvious they can hear singing. Now, whether it is music to their ears or not is another matter altogether.

Signs Your Dog is Responding to Singing

Sounds are important to our survival and well-being. Sound is instructive. Through sounds, we learn to recognize signals and to speak. The sense of hearing allows us to detect the source of things that could be a danger or a comfort. We communicate through vocalizations and sound. 

For dogs, sound is a very important sensory system. Dogs are known for having a strong sense of sound. They are able to detect frequencies that humans cannot hear. Some dogs are even extra-sensitive to sound and will show an array of surprising reactions. With your awareness to what your dog is hearing, you can have a better understanding of your dog's behavior.

Some dogs are very sensitive to sound. These dogs will show fearful reactions. You may find your dog cowering and shaking. The ears will be down. You may see the tail tucked. The dog will be literally crouching as low as possible to hide from the nuisance. 

Dogs' reactions to sound can also be funny and playful. Dogs will react to sound by making sound, too. You can play with your dog by singing in different pitches and rhythms to see what excites your dog. 

Some dogs will just get annoyed, perk up an ear, give you a look and walk away. Other dogs may react to your singing by seeming to join in. The dog will lift their nose into the air and begin to howl. Sometimes the howling will even imitate the rhythms and patterns to your own song.

Body Language

Signs your dog is not a fan of your singing include:
  • Barking
  • Shaking
  • Cowering
  • Scratching
  • Pacing

Other Signs

Some cues that your dog is into your singing are:
  • Perking up their ears
  • Coming closer to you
  • Throwing their head up and howling
  • Wagging their tale

The History of Dogs and Singing

Dogs do hear and respond to the sounds of their family members. Whether the family consists of their species pack or their human pack, sound is an important means of communication. 

The dog's response to singing traces back to their early experience as wolves. In the wild, wolves communicated with one another through howling. The purposes of the howling can vary. It may be a call for the pack to gather. Others believe that the howl is a celebration of the lone wolf. 

When you are singing and your dog joins in, it is likely that your dog is identifying your music as a call from a fellow dog. One fun attribute to consider is that dogs will distinguish themselves from one another in the pitch or tone of their howl. This means your dog will never howl in tune with you. 

When you think about singing in humans, it is a community experience to raise our voices with others and it is a healthy behavior. Go ahead and appreciate the howls of your hound as a union that only the two of you can appreciate!

The Science of Dogs Reacting to Singing

Dogs can hear more frequencies than humans. Healthy humans can detect sounds beginning at 20 hertz and ranging up to 12,000-20,000 hertz. Dogs can hear in the range of 40-60,000 hertz, depending on breed and age. This means that your dog can hear higher pitched frequencies than you. 

It is amazing to consider that the anatomy of the dog's middle and inner ear is similar to that of humans. We share an eardrum, or tympanic membrane as well as ossicles, or little bones in the inner ear that vibrate and send signals along the auditory nerve to the brain. 

The dog has a remarkable outer ear. The dog's ear has 18 or more muscles that control a dog’s pinna, or ear flap. These muscles allow the dog to finely tune the ear to detect sound and they can hear sounds from farther distances. Dogs with alert and tall ears have better hearing than dogs with floppy or droopy ears. 

With their superior hearing, dogs can be more sensitive and reactive to loud noises than humans. Their strong sense of hearing helps them to compensate for their weaker eyesight.

Helping Your Dog to Cope with Sound

Dogs can become fearful in response to sounds. The best prevention of sound phobias is to provide the pup with experiences with sound in a positive environment. If your pup grows up with a variety of sounds they will be less frightening when they encounter the noises later. If you are a singer, go ahead and sing those lullabies and ballads to your pup!

There are a number of things you can do to teach your dog to better tolerate loud noises that are disturbing to them. Desensitization is a method of training in which the dog is given small exposures to the fearful stimulus while being positively reinforced for staying calm. The dog is supported to safely tolerate and cope with the exposure to the adverse stimulus. 

Over time, the intensity of the stimulus is increased in volume and duration. It is best to expose pups to sounds that will often occur in your home. The more familiar a sound is, the less frightening it will be when later encountered. 

You may consider a CD series by Victoria Stillwell that as bioacousti music that is calming to your dog and gradually introduces frightening sounds, like thunder. There are also calming shirts that you can put on your dog if you know it is going to thunder. The Anxiety Wrap provides pressure points to places on the dog's bodies that will help them to stay calm.

What to do when your dog reacts to sound:

  • Do not yell at your dog for howling and barking.
  • Stop the annoying noise, even if it's your singing.
  • Support your dog to be calm when frightened by sounds.
  • Keep the environment calm and positive.
  • Never punish your dog for reacting to sound.