A dog’s sense of hearing is different than a human’s (OK, I know you know that…). But the question is, how is it different?
Basically, sounds for all of us vary according to their decibel level (or loudness of volume), and pitch (how high or low on the octave a noise sounds). Dogs actually only hear a slightly larger range of pitch than we do. Humans can actually hear lower frequency sounds than dogs. What makes dog’s hearing superior to yours is his ability to hear high pitched sounds, and to hear them at a lower volume level than we do. What this means is that not only can your dog hear a squeaky toy from farther away than you can, he can also hear a bat chatter in a voice much too high pitched for us humans to hear.
So how does this super-hearing affect dogs who live in a noisy human society? Well, purely by coincidence, I have worked with no fewer than five dogs this month alone who are suffering from sound sensitivity or an outright sound phobia. These dogs hear a particular sound (and what that sound is varies with the individual, but fireworks and thunder are common culprits), he or she shows signs of anxiety and stress. Some dogs go into full panic mode, desperate to escape the terrifying sound. This type of fear often doesn’t get better over time; in fact it can get worse very quickly without intervention. A program of systematic desensitization and counter-conditioning is the most effective way to treat this miserable condition, and is very effective. It’s not particularly difficult, either, but it has to be done right to work properly.
An incredibly useful tool is a sound desensitization CD, which has a number of tracks on it that replicate the sound of what your dog is afraid of. These can be bought online (see below for some resources). I’ve recently used CDs with the sounds of babies crying, gun shots, sprinklers, fireworks, swingsets and children, vacuum cleaners, dogs barking, doorbells … the list goes on. These are best used in conjunction with other anxiety-relieving tools in our arsenal, increasing their efficacy even more, and giving your dog relief faster.
There are other tools that can calm your dog, as well. Perhaps your dog would like to use his excellent hearing to listen to something peaceful: like music for dogs. Bizarre as that sounds, there has been quite a bit of research on animals’ response to music lately, and it appears that certain types of music can have a calming effect on the canine nervous system. Really! Perhaps your dog deserves a break from the constant whir of our electronics, vehicles, sirens, and televisions .. to just enjoy his sense of hearing.
For more information on music that is specially formulated and clinically tested for dogs, visit Through a Dog’s Ear
For more information on canine hearing in general, check out this article, and the references at the end: http://www.lsu.edu/deafness/HearingRange.html
And if you need help with a problem like this, ask me! Us dog trainers have a lot of resources at our fingertips. Chances are, if you can’t figure it out, I can. 🙂
Have an idea for a training Tidbit? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you!