Can Dogs Hear Ultrasonic Waves?

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Introduction

When it comes to hearing, we often don’t think twice about the fact that our pets can often hear things that we cannot. However, you come to realize this when your beloved pet starts to act very curiously by doing things such as looking around in confusion or staring at a particular spot. 

You then realize that they can see, hear, smell, or sense something that to us, doesn’t even register. If you have a pet pooch, one thing to bear in mind is that they have extremely keen hearing and can pick up sounds at very high frequencies, which includes picking up on ultrasonic waves.

Signs Your Dog Hears Ultrasonic Waves

Ultrasonic waves are used in a variety of devices and gadgets, including in pest repellents and similar items. These waves are designed to produce an extremely high-frequency sound that is way beyond what humans can hear. 

However, dogs are able to hear much higher frequencies, which is why the sound produced by the ultrasonic waves can be heard by your pooch but not by you. You will notice a number of signs that indicate your dog can hear ultrasonic waves that your ears are deaf to, although it can vary from one dog to another.

When your dog hears these sounds, it may look around as though trying to work out where the noise is coming from. Some dogs will also simply sit and stare at the area where it appears to be emanating from. Dogs can get over-excited so some may start barking and jumping up in the direction of the sound. 

Others may be timid about the sound at first and either tuck their tails and run off or back away looking a little bewildered. Dogs may also whine if they hear the sound and are a little disconcerted by it. Another common sign your dog may display is tilting its head in the direction of the sound.

So, what sort of body language might your dog display upon hearing ultrasonic waves? Well, it does depend on the dog and whether it is nervous, excited, or curious. With nervous dogs, the hair on the nape of the neck my stand on edge. You may notice them backing off and they may even bare their teeth. 

Excited dogs may actually run toward the sound. With dogs that are curious, they tend to spend more time staring or looking around to work out what the noise is and where it is coming from. All of these signs could indicate your dog hears something that you do not.

Body Language

Signs that your dog is hearing something that you don't are:
  • Staring
  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Body freezing
  • Back hair on edge
  • Ears back
  • Exposed teeth

Other Signs

More signs that your dog is hearing something include:
  • Looking confused
  • Reluctance to go near the area
  • Staying close to you
  • Backing away

History of Dogs and Ultrasonic Sound

Technology has come a very long way over the years, and we now have various items that use ultrasonic waves to produce sound. Even some animal species can produce ultrasonic sounds such as moths, whales, and dolphins, amongst others. Through historical studies, we have come to realize that these ultrasonic waves produce very high-frequency sound and because we hear sound at much lower frequencies we do not pick up on it. 

However, dogs are able to hear sound at much higher frequencies than us, which means that they are often able to pick up on these sounds because of their sense of hearing and their capabilities when it comes to higher frequencies.

Another thing that we have come to learn from studies is that picking up on these ultrasonic waves will not do dogs any harm. At worst, it can make some nervous dogs a little distressed because they do not know what the sound is or where it is coming from. 

Some dogs do not like noises that they are not used to and it can make them nervous at first but many quickly get used to it. Some dogs are not bothered at all about hearing ultrasonic waves and they simply ignore the sound as if it is not even there.  

The Science of Dogs Hearing Ultrasonic Waves

So, what makes our pooches able to hear such high-frequency sound from ultrasonic waves when we cannot hear anything? Well, studies have shown that dogs can hear sounds that are as high as 45-67 KHz, which is a far higher frequency than humans. 

As such, they are able to pick up on sounds that are inaudible to us because of the frequency. It can be quite disconcerting for dog owners to see their dog reacting to something that, to us, is not there. However, just because you cannot hear the sound, it doesn’t mean it’s not there – as your dog well knows!

Checking Your Dog's Reactions

If you do find that your dog is reacting to a sound that you cannot hear yourself, there is a good chance that there are ultrasonic sounds that it is picking up on from somewhere. This could be from something as simple as bats or mice in the area, both of which are capable of emitting high-frequency sound, or it could be that someone in the immediate vicinity is using a device such as a pest repellent or cat deterrent, as these also give off ultrasonic sounds.

If your dog is getting upset over the situation, it is a good idea to try and work out what is generating the sound so that you can address the situation. However, this is not always easy because you cannot hear the sound yourself, so you are reliant on your dog to give you an idea of where it is coming from. 

Even then, you may not be able to do anything about it, as it could be coming from insects or other creatures. Alternatively, it could be coming from a device that someone close to you is using, such as a neighbor that has installed a cat deterrent or pest repellent that uses ultrasonic waves.

You should bear in mind that many dogs will get used to the sound of ultrasonic waves, even if they appear to be nervous to begin with. So, you don’t have to go rushing out right away to investigate the situation. Instead, monitor your dog and see how it gets on. If, after a few days, it starts acting normally again, the chances are that it can no longer hear the sound or has become used to it. Either way, it eliminates the problem. If your dog continues to be nervous or distressed, it is worth speaking to the vet to see what they can advise. 

How to React to Your Dog Hearing Ultrasonic Waves:

  • Monitor your dog's reactions over the space of a few days.
  • Try to determine what is causing the sound.
  • Speak to the vet if the sound distresses your dog.