The Low Down on Dog Hearing: Everything You Need to Know

When it comes to hearing, dogs have some impressive abilities that leave human ears in the dust. Our furry companions live in a rich auditory world that we can only imagine. Have you ever wondered how your pup detects sounds that you can't hear at all? Or why your dog seems to ignore you but hears a bag crinkle from another room? 

The answer lies in key differences between human and dog hearing. Dogs can perceive a wider range of frequencies, hear faint sounds from farther away and pinpoint the origin of noises much better than we can. Their evolutionary journey has shaped their ears and brain to pick up sensory cues we easily miss.

In this blog, we'll explore how dogs experience sound compared to humans. Understanding your pup's enhanced auditory skills can help you better communicate with and relate to your four-legged friend. You may just gain a new appreciation for your dog's ability to interpret their world through sound. 

Canine Ear Physiology

Dogs possess impressive hearing talents that we inferior-eared humans can only marvel at. These differences stem from the physical structure and capabilities of the canine ear, which differ greatly from human ears. The physiology of dogs’ ears enables them to hear a wider range and pick up fainter sounds. 

Some of the key physiological differences between dogs and humans include:

  • Ear shape: A dog's ear is funnel shaped to capture more sound waves, while human ears are more closed off.
  • Inner workings: Dogs have more ear muscles (18 vs 6 in humans) to finely control their large movable ears and amplify sound.
  • Cochlea: The spiral-shaped cavity in a dog's inner ear contains twice as many cells tuned to high-frequency sounds compared to humans.
  • Hearing neurons: Dogs have nearly double the amount of neurons sending hearing signals to their brain, allowing quicker processing.
  • Upper range: Dogs can hear frequencies up to 45kHz, while humans top out at 20kHz. This enables dogs to hear high-pitched whistles and ultrasonic sound.
  • Sensitivity: Dogs pick up sounds as faint as -15 to -20 decibels compared to humans at +0 to +10 decibels.

This superior auditory anatomy equips dogs to take in a wider range of pitches, volumes, and distances that simply don't register to the average human ear. It's no wonder dogs can detect far more acoustic cues from their environment than we can!

A dog touching his ear to show dog hearing.

Human vs. Dog Hearing

When it comes to perceiving sound, dogs have some natural advantages over us humans. Below is a breakdown of the key advantages of canine hearing abilities:

Frequency range

Humans can only hear sounds between 20Hz and 20,000Hz, while a dog's hearing range is approximately 40Hz to 60,000Hz. That means dogs can detect higher pitch sounds that are inaudible to human ears. This is why training tools like the BarkWise™ Complete can capture your dog’s attention even though you can’t hear the ultrasonic sound. 


Dogs can hear faint noises from much farther away than humans. Sounds four times the distance of a human's hearing range are audible to canine ears. Humane anti-bark tools like the Dog Silencer® Max can catch the attention of dogs up to 300 feet away.

Origin detection

Humans struggle to identify where a sound is coming from because our ears are on the sides of our heads. But dogs excel at pinpointing the precise origin of a noise, whether it's in front, behind, above, or below them.

Ear mobility

A dog's large movable ears allow them to amplify soft sounds and hone in on the source like a satellite dish. Their ears can swivel to capture more sound waves.

Muscle control

Dogs have 18 or more muscles in each ear, allowing for precise focusing and tuning to locate sounds. Humans only have 6 ear muscles by comparison.

Brain processing

A dog's brain is wired to instantly recognize the source of a sound, while humans require more focus to identify origin and direction.

These evolutionary adaptations give dogs a leg up when it comes to hearing faint or high-pitched noises and locating sound sources quickly. Recognizing the expanded sensory world dogs experience through their superior hearing can help owners better understand common dog behaviors.

A Deep Dive into Ear Mobility

A dog's large, movable ears aren't just for show. They actually serve an important purpose. Those adorable floppy ears can swivel around like satellite dishes to precisely catch sound waves. When a noise piques their interest, dogs will turn an ear or both ears directly toward the source to maximize what they hear. Their ears' funnel shape and mobility help amplify quieter noises.

Dogs also use their nimble ears to pinpoint where a sound is coming from with impressive accuracy. The ears can independently move which enables triangulation of the sound source. Plus dogs have brains uniquely wired to process tiny differences in timing and loudness between their two ears. This allows them to instantly identify if a noise is in front, behind, above, or below them.

If My Dog Is So Great At Hearing, Why Isn’t He Listening to Me?

Sometimes, you might get frustrated when a dog seems to ignore a command. This is likely because the human voice mainly projects sound waves around 2,000 to 4,000 Hz, which is outside of a dog's optimal hearing range. High-frequency whistles around 16,000 to 22,000 Hz more easily grab a dog's attention. This explains why a dog may perk up when they hear a subtle noise from across the house, yet appear oblivious to a normal speaking voice close by. It also explains why they can hear and respond to ultrasonic sounds when we humans cannot.

So while a dog's ears may sometimes seem to misbehave from a human perspective, they're actually hard at work detecting sounds with precision hearing. Recognizing the amazing power of the canine ear can help you communicate better with your dog.

Bridging the Gap Between Human and Dog Hearing

While human and dog hearing abilities overlap in the mid-range of frequencies and volumes, dogs have a clear advantage when it comes to detecting high pitches, faint sounds, and pinpointing sound sources. Their wider range of hearing, acute distance detection, ear mobility, and brain wiring for processing auditory information are evolutionary adaptations specifically tuned for a canine's survival.

Understanding these differences in hearing ability can allow owners to better communicate with their dogs. Simple steps like using higher-pitched cues, getting your dog's attention before speaking, and reducing background noise can help overcome some of the auditory mismatches between species. Taking advantage of a dog's natural ability to locate sounds can also be useful for recall training.

The better we comprehend the incredible world of sound dogs experience, the more insight we gain into their behaviors. Learning how dogs hear so much more than humans can ultimately deepen the bond between owner and pup. So prick up your ears to the hearing talents of your canine companion!

Visit Good Life Inc. today to check out our range of safe and reliable bark training devices to more effectively communicate with your dog.



National Library of Medicine - Hearing dogs: a longitudinal study of social and psychological effects on deaf and hard-of-hearing recipients

Louisiana State University -

National Library of Medicine - Anatomy and physiology of the canine ear

Hearing Sense - 8 Fun Facts About Your Dog’s Ears

Recent Articles