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How Do Dogs Hear So Well?

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With the sense of smell being the most important sense of canines, the second most important is the sense of hearing. These two senses aid in canine search-and-rescue operations. So, how do dogs hear so well?

A study by Louisiana State University shows that dogs hear better than humans, but not quite as well as cats. However, researchers warn not to place too much emphasis on comparison among different species.

A Cock of the Head

When dogs hear a sound, their ears move toward it in order to increase reception. If you notice your pet cocking his head, he could simply be trying to draw attention to his cute antics or trying to listen to a sound that is four times farther away than your ears can hear. The ears of a dog are controlled by at least 18 muscles, whereas human ears are controlled by only about six. Thus, canines are able to tilt and rotate their ears, while we humans can only turn our heads from side to side.

Dogs can hear sounds more accurately according to ear shape. Many breeds have upright and curved ears, which amplify as well as direct the sounds.

Often, dogs are scared away by high-frequency tones that may, to us humans, seem only a little loud. Dogs are very sensitive to loud noises such as vacuum cleaners and other household appliances. Gunshot sounds also tend to frighten them a little — but hey, gunshot sounds frighten me too! These types of noise can be very painful to a dog.
Sound Differentiators

According to the book Dog Sense, dogs are greatly skilled at distinguishing between quite similar sounds, such as different types of barks. They tend to obtain a great bit of detail from what they hear, with the capability of detecting very quiet sounds.

Not only might we question “How do dogs hear so well?” — we may also wonder how in the world they are able to hear the so-called “silent” dog whistles, which cannot be heard by humans. The answer to this one is simple enough: Dogs hear at much higher frequencies than the human hearing range. Oh! What excellent hearing abilities dogs possess (50,000+ Hz). It’s kinda hard to believe that a little bat can hear even higher frequencies (twice as much as a dog, at 100,000 Hz).

Oh Why So High?

It is not yet clear as to why dogs would ever have needed to hear such high-pitched sounds, but the assumption is that this ability is a legacy from their smaller ancestors. In the wild, this legacy enables them to hunt and locate food, while many domesticated breeds are used as guard dogs.

The next time you find your pooch with head cocked and ears tilted, perhaps you’ll want to take a moment to imagine what she is hearing, which to you will probably be “sounds of the unknown.”

Check out this and more great stuff from PetsAdviser.com:
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