Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

7 Noises Only Dogs Can Hear (Vet-Approved)

Kit Copson

By Kit Copson

Adorable small Pomeranian dog in short hair style stand and turn the face upward curious in question from owner about something she hearing

Vet approved

Dr. Ashley Darby Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Ashley Darby

Veterinarian, BVSc

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Sniffing isn’t the only powerful sense dogs possess; their sense of hearing is also pretty incredible. Does this mean that dogs hear better than us? In some areas, yes, and in others, no. Nevertheless, there are certain sounds that dogs can hear that humans wouldn’t even notice.

This is why your dog sometimes reacts to what seems to be nothing—they’re hearing something that you just can’t pick up on. Let’s explore these noises and why dogs can hear them while we can’t. We’ll also share some fun facts about a dog’s hearing.

hepper-dog-paw-divider2

The 7 Noises Only Dogs Can Hear

1. Sounds at High Frequencies

Note: For reference, Hertz (Hz) is the unit that measures frequencies, and it refers to the number of vibrations per second that create a sound.

A human’s capacity to hear high-pitched sounds is capped at around 20,000 Hertz (Hz), but dogs can hear up to 45,000 Hz. It’s important to be aware of this fact so that the rest of this list makes more sense.

Dogs are also able to hear low-decibel sounds that would be too quiet for human ears to detect. On the other hand, dogs aren’t as attuned as humans are to lower-frequency sounds.

Portrait of welsh corgi Pembroke dog lying on floor
Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

2. Dog Whistles

Have you ever wondered why the whistle you use to get your dog’s attention is silent? Well, to you, it is. These kinds of whistles emit an ultrasonic sound which is at a frequency dogs and some other animals can hear but humans cannot.

You may be able to hear the airflow when you blow into the whistle, which is best described as a sort of hissing sound, but—fortunately for people around you—it won’t sound like the screech of a standard whistle.


3. Small Animals

The reason dogs can hear sounds at such high frequencies and low decibels may be that this allowed their wild ancestors to hear the subtle scuttling and vocalizations of nearby prey, like mice, rabbits, or birds, and therefore survive. Dogs today don’t need to hunt anymore because they have us to cater to their every whim, but they’ve inherited the trait all the same.

cute jack russell dog lying on bed listening with funny ear
Image Credit: eva_blanco, Shutterstock

4. Someone Coming to Your House

Have you ever been chilling quietly at home only to jump out of your skin when your dog starts barking seemingly out of nowhere, and then your doorbell rings shortly afterward? You may not be able to hear someone approaching, but your pooch’s ability to hear and locate distant sounds—like a car in the distance—is unmatched.


5. Sounds of Electronics

To you, the sounds of common electronic items like TVs and computers are barely noticeable or at least inoffensive, but dogs are more sensitive to the high-frequency sounds they emit. Consider switching these off when you don’t need to use them because they could be irritating for your pup.

Sweet fluffy jack russel terrier dog watching TV with its female owner
Image Credit: Prostock-studio, Shutterstock

6. Earthquakes

Though it hasn’t been conclusively proven, it’s possible that dogs can sense when an earthquake is coming. While conducting a study in 2012 on seasonal affective disorder in dogs, Stanley Coren, Ph.D. noticed a “sharp increase in activity and anxiety” one day in the dogs that were taking part.

To be precise, Coren explains that, out of 193 dogs, “47% showed significantly higher activity levels and 49% showed a marked increase in anxiety.” The following day, a 6.8 earthquake hit the area. If it’s true that dogs can “predict” earthquakes, it’s been said that it might be because they can hear the movements of the rocks underground before the event.


7. Frequency Differences

In his book “How Dogs Think”, Stanley Coren, Ph.D. says that dogs can hear “the difference between the musical note C and another note that differs by one-eighth of the distance between that C note and C sharp.” This is a very minute difference, which goes to show just how powerful a dog’s sense of hearing is.

hepper-dog-paw-divider

More Fascinating Facts About a Dog’s Hearing

1. A Dog’s Hearing Ability Differs by Breed

How well a dog hears depends on the type of ears they have. For example, floppy ears block the dog’s ability to pick up sounds somewhat, whereas large, erect ears can pick them up more easily due to the pinna. The pinna is the word for the outer ear that sends sounds into the ear. Therefore, breeds with ears that stand up are stronger in the hearing department.

close up german shepherd dog with ears pinned up
Image Credit: Marzena Ko, Unsplash

2. “Normal” Noises Can Be Stressful for Dogs

If you’ve ever wondered why dogs get anxious when they hear common noises like vacuum cleaners, thunderstorms, or fireworks, it’s because they’re much more sensitive to the high-frequency sounds they emit than we are.


3. Dogs Can Be Born Deaf

There is a widely-known correlation between congenital deafness and white pigmentation. The Dalmatian is probably the most common example of this with 30% of US Dalmatians being deaf in 2004. A BEAR hearing test is usually performed to diagnose deafness in these puppies.

dalmatian dog looking sick
Image Credit: Alexander Hagseth, Shutterstock

4. Dogs Use Their Ears To Communicate

Dogs communicate with each other using noises and body language. We all know a dog with their tail between their legs is feeling threatened but did you know that a dog with their ears back may be trying to avoid conflict? A dog with their ears forward is usually attentive and interested.

hepper-dog-paw-divider2

Conclusion

A dog’s sense of hearing can be both advantageous and stressful for them in equal effect. While it makes them more finely attuned to certain sounds and helps wild dogs survive, domesticated dogs can suffer from distress because they hear things so acutely—things we’d think nothing of, like the sounds of everyday electronic items, distant vehicles, and faraway fireworks.

This is why it’s so important to be understanding and work on soothing your dog when they react out of stress to something you can’t hear or can barely hear.


Featured Image Credit: Leeyakorn06, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database