Do High Frequencies Make Dogs Uncomfortable?

Canine ears are more sensitive than human ears.
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Dogs are renowned for their superior sense of smell, but they’ve got pretty sharp ears too. Compared to a human, a dog’s hearing range is approximately twice as wide. Dogs typically can detect sounds between 67-45,000 Hz, while humans can detect sounds between 64-23,000. In the upper frequencies of a dog’s hearing range, the sounds can cause a dog irritation and discomfort.

Canine Hearing Range

While dogs are capable of hearing higher frequencies than humans, they by no means have the widest hearing range. Bats and whales can hear sounds up to 110,000 Hz, but are less capable of detecting lower range sounds.

Volume Plus Frequency Equals Discomfort

It is not merely frequency that causes a sound to be uncomfortable for a dog. The sound must reach a certain volume too. At sufficient volumes, frequencies above 25,000 Hz become irritating for dogs. The louder and higher those sounds are, the more uncomfortable for the dog they become. Dogs may whimper, whine and run away if confronted with a sufficiently loud and high-frequency sound.

Practical Applications

Humans use high-frequency sounds to deter dogs from approaching, to distract dogs from misbehaving and to call them. Personal dog deterrents rely on blasting a loud, high-frequency sound to confuse, startle and irritate a dog. These sounds cause no permanent hearing damage and once the dog is out of range, he will settle down. In some scenarios, it’s important for an owner to signal to a dog using a sound that is distinctive. Dog whistles are extremely high frequency, in some cases, they are higher than 23,000 Hz and are inaudible to human ears. These sounds cut through ambient noise and are more easily discernible for dogs.

It’s not All Bad

Sounds of a frequency between 23,000-25,000 Hz are inaudible to humans, but are tolerable for dogs. In some cases, the sounds are appealing to dogs because they are distinct from the familiar range of sounds present in the human environment. Pet food manufacturers have experimented with including sounds in this frequency range in their adverts to attract dogs to the television set.