Have You Heard? 10 Unique Facts About Your Dog’s Hearing

Do you hear what I hear? We take an in-depth look at your dog's ears.

Do some dog breeds hear better than others? Possibly, but the differences within the species are insignificant compared to the difference between what we hear and what our dogs hear.

 Frenchie Puppy

Let’s look more closely at the canine ear:

  1. Breeds such as the Tibetan Terrier and Shetland Sheepdog were developed to watch for trouble. These breeds certainly may choose to listen more carefully than other breeds. For a Sheltie protecting a flock from predators, his hearing is his first line of defense. After all, the sooner a dog hears danger, the more expediently he can notify his owners, or handle a threat.
  2. Some of you may be able to wiggle your ears (I can’t!) but in general, human ears don’t move independently. In fact, apparently the few muscles we do have in our outer ear are on strike; near as I can tell they do little. Our dogs, however, have over a dozen muscles in their ears for movement. It’s no wonder they love ear massages. They can tilt, turn, raise, and lower their ears. Movement may be more obvious in the large-eared breeds of course.
  3. Dogs move their ears to hear better, but also to express emotions. The posture/position of a dog’s ears at any given time tells the story of how they’re feeling. My German Shepherd, for example, holds her ears erect when she hears newcomers; holding her ears up seems to amplify the sound. In contrast, she pulls her ears flat in sadness when the vet examines her. Or maybe she just doesn’t want to hear what he says.
  4. 4. Another function of a dog’s ear is balance. In fact, inner ear infections are a frequent cause of our dogs losing balance. Head to the vet if your dog wobbles.
  5. Our dogs can hear at higher frequencies than our range. Some dog whistles take advantage of this range; our dogs can hear a whistle we can’t hear.
  6. Now how exactly this next fact impacts my dog’s appreciation of music I can’t say, but scientists say dogs only dis­criminate resolutions of about one third of an octave. We humans can discriminate resolutions as fine as one twelfth of an octave.
  7. Scientists generally contend dogs hear about four times better than we do. Cocking their heads may help dogs hone in a distant sounds.Perhaps, but I still contend they cock their heads to look irresistibly cute.
  8. Puppies are born deaf. Why would they have evolved to be born deaf? Actually the pup is born undeveloped in many others ways besides closed ear canals. Apparently there may be advantages to a short gestation period for dogs; perhaps giving birth early allowed mama dogs to get back to hunting sooner. And as for puppies, generally they can hear within a few weeks.
  9. As any dog owner will agree, dogs filter out certain sounds and tune in to others. For example, a dog may sleep through loud conversation but wake up instantly when he hears his food dish filled. My dog can sleep through my cat’s crazy antics, but instantly comes to attention when a stranger walks up my drive.
  10. Some breeds such as Dalmatians are prone to hearing issues. Older dogs may have hearing problems as well. One can surmise, however, that at least some senior dog hearing issues are associated with a decreased interest in hearing us: “surely you don’t expect me to get off this couch at my age?”

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