It sometimes seems like dogs have a sixth sense. It's as though they can sense things that are about to happen based on what clues come up around them. They often notice things before we notice them! How do dogs do this?
Loud noises, such as fireworks and thunderstorms, seem to scare dogs in serious ways. Why do these noises have such a large effect on them? Why do they notice quieter noises as well? Can dogs hear louder than humans?
Signs that a Dog's Hearing is Stronger than Humans'
If noises get too loud, your dog will let you know. Because dogs have such a keen sense of hearing, they are more sensitive to very loud noises. When a big delivery truck comes, the noise is much more obvious to your dog.
When a noise is especially loud, such as thunderstorms or fireworks, many dogs will react in defensiveness and fear. During loud storms, dogs may hide or shake. They tend to bark, jump up, run in circles, or even cower. They will do anything to demonstrate incoming danger, and they will act according to their breed and personality type.
When a dog hears an incoming truck or interesting noise, you may notice similar behaviors such as barking and jumping up. Some smaller dogs will even try to get on a higher perch in order to see what is going on.
- Jumping up
- Trying to get your attention
- Trying to get to higher ground
- Pawing at their ears
The History of Dogs' Hearing
Dogs and humans were roaming the wilderness separately from each other. However, over time a unique bond formed. Humans started throwing their leftovers over their shoulders. They got rid of the pieces of their food that they were not able to eat. Wolves discovered this leftover food.
In order to get closer to the group, wolves began adjusting their personalities in order to better connect with humans. In return for the kindness of their humans, wolves helped humans hunt and they helped protect the community. Over time, the wolves who were closest to the humans continued to breed. Over generations, wolves began to look and act more like dogs - friendly, intuitive, helpful - all of the qualities of a human's best friend.
Dogs have evolved over thousands of years to develop their hearing. They use their ability to hear such high frequencies in order to tell where a sound is coming from. Because of their ear placement, they are able to tell which direction a sound is coming from based on which of their ears is most near the sound. They then follow the direction of the sound in order to find its source.
Science of Dogs' Hearing
Dogs can hear better than humans because of the way their ears are structured. They have eighteen muscles in their ears! Humans only have six muscles in their ears. This allows dogs to reposition, raise, and lower their ears according to their hearing needs.
Because of their wide range of hearing and ability to control their ears in specific ways, dogs are able to hear at much more advanced levels than humans.
Training a Dog to Hear More Sounds
Your dog will naturally form associations with specific sounds based on exposure and experiences. For example, it does not take long for your dog to recognize the sound of your voice. Dogs even learn to recognize the sound of cars. When they hear a specific sound, they make an association with what happens next.
For example, a dog may hear a car that is a quarter of a mile away. Next, a big car drives by. This repetition helps your dog predict new scenarios in order to best adapt and be prepared. You can use this association ability to train your dog to react to specific sounds.
Some service dogs are trained to help people who are deaf. They can hear the doorbell ring, and then go and put their paw on their owner. Other dogs can be trained to recognize specific types of cars. You may notice your own dog reacting differently depending on how loud a sound is.
Your dog does not have to be a service dog in order to improve hearing. You can reinforce positive reactions to sounds by giving your dog treats or positive praise when they react to a sound according to your expectations.
There is one way you can train your dog not to react to specific sounds. You can do this by training your dog how to behave when the doorbell rings by giving treats and affection when they do not bark at the doorbell.
The best way to train dogs is always with positive reinforcement. With careful attention and lots of patience, dogs can be trained to do incredible things!
Safety Tips When Your Dog is Scared of a Loud Noise:
Provide comfort and reassurance.
Remain calm and collected.
Get your dog a weighted vest to help with anxiety.