Throughout time, there have been miraculous stories of dogs pulling family members to safety when a fire has broken out in the home. These brave-hearted canines have saved many lives. A dog’s acute sense of hearing can definitely hear a smoke detector or alarm, possibly even before a person has time to react.
Fires move fast and it only takes 15 minutes for the smoke to do its worst. History reveals a fascinating union between dogs and firemen and today our service dogs are trained to recognize the fire alarm sound and escort their companions to safety. It seems our wonderful woofers are once again putting their best paw forward to support their human friends What does your dog do when a fire truck goes whizzing past?
Signs Your Dog Can Hear Fire Alarms
When dogs let out a forlorn, wolfy howl - echoing the sound of a fire truck siren, it could be an instinctive memory of wolf communication as they tune in to their wilder side. Dogs can hear frequencies up to 50,000HZ but are beaten out by bats who can hear 100,000Hz. We humans can hear approximately 20Hz to 20,000Hz, so it gives you an idea how supreme your Bulldog’s hearing is. Chegg states a police siren emits a frequency range of 635Hz to 912Hz, so it’s not likely this siren will hurt a dog's ears.
Fire alarms and smoke detectors make a high-pitched sound that some dogs find terrifying, as they cower and shake, thinking the worlds about to end. You might put your hands over your ears to block out the offensive sound but dogs can’t and are forced to endure the ear-splitting tones.
They may whimper and bark at the offending noise or pant profusely and urinate on the floor. Some will run and hide under the bed. If your distressed pooch paces up and down every time the smoke detector goes haywire, you might have a dog with noise phobia.
Playing soothing music is a great way to calm a panicked pup, but if you have a fire alarm and detectors in the house, your frenzied dog is going to react every time they go off. Smoke alarms are not pet-friendly, so altering the dogs perception is important for their emotional well-being.
A veterinary neurologist featured on NBC news says, playing a CD of the noise that upsets your dog will slowly diffuse their fear. You can play it quietly each day then make it louder as your dog gets used to the sound. If your strung-out pup still hits the panic button when they hear the alarm, its time to talk to your vet.
The History of Dogs and Fire Alarms
Carriage dogs appeared in the 17th century with English aristocrats using Dalmatians to run alongside the carriage, as protection from bandits and wild dogs. To have such a dog was considered a symbol of success and caused quite a stir as they were seen running through the English towns and countryside.
The origins of this black and white spotted pooch are linked to Italy, with a rare painting of this grandiose breed dating all the way back to 1300 A.D. Their name derives from Dalmatia, a region of Croatia
Dalmatians are a strong, muscular dog that can run for miles without tiring. They are also horse-friendly, so this made them the perfect carriage or "ladies dog," during the time of horse-drawn transportation, right up until the advent of the motorized vehicle.
When the fire brigade began, Dalmatians would rush out of the station and alert people the fire cart was coming out. They also galloped alongside the carriage, warding off dogs that would nip at the horse's heels. Once they were at the scene of the fire their job was to guard the equipment and keep the horses from freaking out.
Word must have traveled fast across the seas, as U.S firefighting companies saw the value of this hard-working breed which had a unique rapport with horses. Such was the connection, these guarding woofers would sleep with their horsey-pals in their stalls.
Today, you’ll see the legendary Dalmatian in schools teaching kids fire safety. The award-winning book, “Sparkles the Fire Fighting Dog,” is the ingenious creation of firefighter Diana Hilton who was appalled at the stats of kids perishing in house fires. She enlisted the support of Sparkles, a Dalmatian doggy character, to spread the fire safety word. Kids learn, through the power of our furry friends, how to react when a fire breaks out.
Other animals hear the fire alarm sound and may instinctively equate it with danger, but it is our canine fire-stars that respond in life saving ways.
Science Behind Dogs Hearing Fire Alarms
There is no doubt that dogs can hear fire alarms and often hear them long before we do. That’s because they are tuned to frequencies beyond our audible scope. Their hearing is off the Richter scale compared to humans, which leads to the question, "Can a loud fire alarm hurt a doggy's ears?"
"No" say the experts! Only a continual blasting of a siren or super-loud noise will cause hearing problems. The vet clinic at Mississippi State University found exposure to repetitive gunshots will damage a hunting dog's hearing. A standard, painless test for deafness was observed and found hearing loss in many of dogs tested.
Your cute Pug or macho Mastiff is not likely to be exposed to sirens the same way a hunting dog might be to gun noise, so their listening skills should not be affected.
Believe it or not, you can acquire earmuffs for mutts if you plan on going to the drag races or anywhere the noise will be consistent. This could be a magic idea for dogs that lose the plot on fireworks night or during a storm. Welcome to the modern age where they think of everything!
It seems unanimous that when a dog howls like crazy at a fire alarm, it’s a time machine response to their grandfather wolf, calling to the man in the moon. No seriously, wolves often become detached from the pack and it is said this is their way of calling out to each other, perhaps to bring them home.
Training a Dog to React to a Fire Alarm
Now that we’ve trekked through fire dog history and asked the big guns of science their take on dogs hearing alarms, we might want to know how dogs and humans can help each other survive a fire. We know the statistics for fires in the home are way too high, so it seems wise to train our dogs to wake us up if they smell smoke or hear the alarm.
Clicker training says your dog will need to have the run of the house and be able to get onto the bed. If they sleep with you, that won’t be a problem. Your pooch might walk on you, or nudge a part of your body with their nose or paws. Training involves teaching your pup to use this action to wake you up when the fire alarm goes off.
Your woofer also needs to know when it’s time to go. Dogs are known to instinctively sound the woofer alarm and awaken their human family, but many dogs don’t make it out. Perhaps fear takes hold and they look for a place to hide.
Training your pooch to respond to you if there is a fire might also save their life. Start by turning on the alarm and if your pup is startled, calm him or her, with praise and treats. Keep your woofer on a lead while you turn the alarm off and on, as you work to relax them during the process. The last part of this dog safety process is to stand by the exit door and call to your buddy. If a real fire breaks out, you want them to come straight to you.
Dogs can sniff out a storm or earthquake well before the hurricane hits. With their keen sense of smell, they are likely to smell smoke long before you do. If a dog can be trained to consistently sniff smoke, you’ll be out the exit door before the alarm sounds.
You will need a smoke device to get your dog acquainted. It’s probably wise to get a friend to do that part so you can concentrate on your pup. You want your dog to bark when they smell the smoke and when they do, offer a toy or treat as a reward. Keep the smoke container away from the pup, as you don’t want them to inhale the smoke. As training progresses, you can introduce them to smoke coming from under a door and all throughout the home. Fire is merciless, so getting your dog aware of the danger will keep them safe.
By a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole
Published: 03/18/2018, edited: 04/06/2020