What can Dogs Hear? Do Dogs Understand or Like Music?

What Sounds, Noises, Pitch Levels, and HZ Can Dogs Hear? Do Dogs Understand or Like Music?

Does your dog seem more relaxed or energetic when there is music playing? Or, does your dog not appear amused one bit by music? We wonder if dogs have the same type of reaction to music as humans.

Here is a little bit of information on a dog’s ability to hear. Studies have shown that dogs have a much more sensitive set of ears than humans do. Dogs can hear higher sound frequencies on a hertz (Hz) scale, while humans can hear lower frequencies. Humans have about 1/3 of a dog’s ability to hear high pitched noises. Dogs are said to have a hearing sensitivity of 40Hz to 60,000 Hz whereas humans have a hearing sensitivity of 20Hz to 20,000 Hz. Although dogs have more acute hearing than humans, they are not on the top of the list for mammals with amazing hearing. Bats have a hearing frequency between 20 Hz and 120,000 Hz – double the upper limit of a dog’s ability to hear.

Since dogs can hear higher pitch noises than humans, they often respond to noises that the owner is unaware of. You may think your dog is barking at a walker or bike rider going by on the street, but when you look out to see who your dog may think is an “intruder”, you don’t see anyone. This may be because your dog isn’t barking at anyone outside your house, he or she is barking at little visitors on the inside of your home – mice! Mice communicate with each other by noises that are 1 kilohertz (kHz) to 90 kHz or 1,000 Hz to 90,000 Hz – which, in the upper range, is inaudible to humans but may be audible to dogs. 1 kHz is equal to 1,000 Hz. A dog may hear the mice signaling to each other, which is your dog’s way of signaling to you that you may have some pesky rodents!

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Now that you have an idea of the sensitivity of a dog’s hearing, we can move back to the topic of music. When you play a song, there are often several noises going on at the same time, unless of course you are playing a song on a single instrument, which in that case there is only one sound that puts out several pitches, depending on the frequency of the vibration of the instrument. For example, a piano can put out one or several sounds between its lowest and highest notes. The lowest note on a piano is 27.5 Hz and the highest is 4,186 Hz, which is all in the range of human hearing. If you are playing a song on the radio or cd player, you may be hearing several sounds throughout the song and most likely you will be able to hear each of those sounds both together and separately if you listen carefully. It’s logical to think that all sounds recorded onto a song would be within the 20-20,000 Hz range or else how would a human be able to hear the sounds when recording in the studio? It’s safe to assume that dogs can hear the sounds in a song that humans can hear.

We feel that if a dog responds to a song differently it may just be that they find a sound annoying to them, much like many of us find the sound of an ambulance annoying – dogs do too! If you find that your dog responds to a song positively, it may be because they like a certain sound due to an associative reinforcement. Dogs remember situations based on senses, and in this case it would be hearing. If a dog hears a doorbell on a tv commercial they may start barking like crazy because they are used to hearing that sound when there is a stranger at the door. If an owner often takes their dog out on a bike ride with them and the dog hears a bell-like sound in a song they may start running around in circles all ready to go for a walk because they are used to hearing that sound when they go out with their owner.

There is also the theory that dogs don’t really pay attention to the actual music, but instead they pay more attention to how the music is affecting their owner. Dogs like to see their owners calm, relaxed, happy and stress-free. Good vibes from you equals good vibes for your dog. There is some strength to this theory in the fact that a happy owner creates a happy living environment and then a happy dog.

So is it the sounds, the association, or the owner’s response – or a combination of the three – that gets your dog’s tail wagging? Next time you put on some music pay attention to all the tones and pitches and see how your dog responds!

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