Can Dogs Hear Music? What Pitch Levels Can Dogs Hear? Do Dogs Understand Music?
Does your dog seem more relaxed or energetic when there is music playing? Or, does your dog not appear amused by music? Do dogs have the same type of reaction to music as humans? Can dogs hear music?
What Pitch Levels can Dogs Hear?
Let’s discuss a dog’s ability to hear. Studies have shown that dogs have more sensitive ears than humans do. Dogs can hear higher sound frequencies on a hertz (Hz) scale. While humans can hear lower frequencies. Humans have 1/3 of a dog’s ability to hear high pitched noises. Dogs have a hearing sensitivity of 40Hz to 60,000 Hz. Alternatively, humans have a hearing sensitivity of 20Hz to 20,000 Hz. Even though dogs have more acute hearing than humans, they are not on the top of the list for mammals hearing. Bats have a hearing frequency between 20 Hz and 120,000 Hz – double the upper limit of a dog’s ability to hear.
Dogs Can Hear Higher Pitch Levels than Humans
Since dogs can hear higher pitch noises, they often respond to noises that the you are unaware of. You may think your dog is barking at a walker or biker on the street, but when you look you don’t see anyone. This may be because your dog isn’t barking at anyone outside your house, but something inside your home like mice! Mice communicate with each other by noises that are 1 kilohertz (kHz) to 90 kHz or 1,000 Hz to 90,000 Hz. This upper range is inaudible to humans but can be audible to dogs. 1 kHz is equal to 1,000 Hz. A dog may hear the mice signaling to each other.
Sounds, Pitch, & Frequencies
Now that you understand a dog’s hearing capabilities, we can move to the topic of music. When you play a song, there are often several noises going on at the same time, unless you are playing a single instrument. In that case there is one sound putting out several pitches, depending on the frequency. For example, a piano can emit one or several sounds between its lowest and highest notes. The lowest note on a piano is 27.5 Hz. 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 hear several sounds throughout the song and are able to hear each sound 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. Because how else would a human hear the sounds when recording in the studio? It’s safe to assume that dogs can hear sounds in a song that humans can hear.
Association Between Activities and Sounds
If a dog responds to a song differently it may simply annoy them. Similar to how humans find the sound of an ambulance annoying – dogs do too! If your dog responds to a song positively, they could like a certain sound due to an associative reinforcement. Dogs remember situations based on senses. In this case it would be hearing. If a dog hears a doorbell on a TV commercial, they may bark because they are used to hearing that sound when there is a stranger at the door. If an owner 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 preparing for a walk. This could be because they are used to hearing that sound when they go out with their owner.
There is also the theory that dogs don’t pay attention to actual music. Instead they pay 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 means good vibes from your dog. There is some strength to this theory in the fact that a happy owner creates a happy living environment resulting in a happy dog.
In summary, can dogs hear music? Or is it the sounds, the association, or the owner’s response? Maybe it is a combination of the three that gets your dog’s tail wagging. Next time you put on music pay attention to the tones and pitches to see how your dog responds!
Written on February 15, 2011
Updated on September 30th, 2020
Kim is the co-owner of DogLoverStore with her husband, John. She earned her BS in operations management at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. She enjoys walking in nature, gardening in the sun, eating sour candy, going on drives, yoga, and reading.