Saying your dog's hearing is good is an understatement, as their hearing is far superior to that of a human. Dogs are able to hear in much higher frequencies than humans are able to and this leads to the question of what other things they can hear that we can't?
If you ever wondered just how good your dog's hearing is, consider whether they can actually hear sonar! Many people wonder whether dogs can hear sonar that is emitted by various devices, such as parking sensors, distance sensors, even pest repelling devices, or bio-sonar that animals like bats use.
Signs Your Dog Can Hear Sonar
Because your dog can hear a much wider range of frequencies than we can, one could argue that they could potentially hear sonar (ultrasonic range) as well. Sonar is used for a number of things, the most common use being underwater.
In recent years, however, there’s been a surge of sonar uses in cars, where this technology is used in parking sensors. The sonar frequencies are high but overlap with your dog’s hearing range, so you can look for following clues in your dog’s behavior when near a source that is emitting sonar frequencies:
- Listening – the first reaction your dog will have when hearing sounds in the sonar range is listening intently. They will try to determine the source of the sound and whether it’s a threat or not. You will notice your dog listening by the way their ears start moving to determine where the sound is coming from.
- Raise Ears – if your dog hears sounds outside of your hearing range, they will raise their ears to hear the sound better, and the pinpoint its origin.
- Alert – with any noise that is new or piques interest, your dog will become alert. They will try to identify the noise and find the source. In case these noises are out of our hearing range, you will not be able to hear or locate what noise made your dog alert.
- Barking – another common reaction to hearing a new noise, or a suspicious one, is barking. Your dog is alerting you to a potential threat and letting the threat know they mean business. Dogs often bark to protect their companions or territory.
Many owners report that their dogs do indeed react to what seems to be frequencies in sonar range (for instance, car parking sensors, or sonar distance sensors, even pest repellents), but most of them don’t have overly intensive reactions. They hear it, determine the source and often just lose interest. As all these sources that can emit such high-frequency sounds, if the sound in that range would scare your dog or even hurt their ears, they will have very different reactions.
History of Dogs Hearing Sonar
Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell and hearing. They got this from their ancestors. Us humans realized this was a major advantage thousands of years ago. Having companions that can hear and smell danger before you can give you a big tactical advantage and keep you safe. After a while, people realized they can also teach their domesticated dogs to help with other animals they tamed, and so, shepherd dogs were born.
It is believed that the dog’s sense of hearing is so good because of the specific way their ancestors hunted, and their preferred prey. The dog’s ancestors hunted mice and other vermin, so actually hearing them was a very good advantage. Their hearing is so good because they relied on it heavily to pinpoint where their prey is hiding - only by hearing their squeaks.
This behavior can be observed in foxes today, where they can pinpoint a mouse with somewhat frightening precision. This ability to hear prey is also the reason why your dog can hear sonar from various sources that emit high frequencies.
Science Behind Dogs' Hearing
So what exactly makes the dog’s ears so good? Humans can hear well too. We humans can hear sounds from 20 to 20,000 Hz. Our dogs, however, can hear from 40 all the way to 60,000 Hz. This is much better hearing than we have. While we might have a slight advantage when it comes to the lower frequencies, dogs are definitely in the lead with higher frequencies. Both humans and dogs lose part of their hearing as they get older, so the highest frequencies cannot be heard once they (and us) reach a certain age.
The range is somewhat different when it comes to different dog breeds, so some breeds can hear better than others. This is particularly true for hunting breeds, and breeds that have upright ears, as oppose to those that have floppy ones. These differences, however, are not that big.
Because of their keen hearing, today we have service dogs that we use for a number of things: search and rescue, military and police, helping people with various disabilities and so on.
Training of Dogs Based on Their Hearing
As every dog owner knows, your dog will listen to your commands if you trained them well. The dog can also respond to special whistles, that produce sounds in ranges that humans can’t hear, but are in the middle range of what the dog hears. These silent whistles, popularly known as dog whistles, are used by many and are a great way to train your dog to respond to commands without bothering others.
It is important to remember that while you may not be able to hear the whistle, your dog can! Not just yours, but others as well. If you live in a neighborhood with other dogs, you might want to be considerate about training and discuss with neighbors in case your whistle is affecting them.
By Charlotte Ratcliffe
Published: 04/01/2018, edited: 04/06/2020