Dogs’ hearing abilities are amazing. Compared to human hearing, a dog’s ability to hear is akin to a superpower. If that’s the case, then how are a dog’s ears and anxiety related? Well, this is due to a very specific, and yet very common type of anxiety in dogs: noise anxiety.
Understanding Dog’s Hearing
So, just how much better can a dog hear than a human? It’s estimated they can hear 4 times the amount of sound we can (read more about this here). This is partly because they hear a much larger range of sound frequencies than people, especially when it comes to higher frequencies. According to the American Kennel Club, humans can hear up to 20,000 Hertz, but dogs hear up to 47,000 to 65,000 Hertz, meaning they pick up pitches 2 to 3 times higher than us. Hence, why dog whistles work.
Dogs also have excellent hearing because of the way they move their ears. This ability allows them to narrow in on specific sounds.
With dogs having better hearing than us, it isn’t surprising that noises that don’t bother us are not so innocuous to our canine friends.
Noise anxiety is a fairly common type of anxiety in dogs. So, what is it? Well, like the name implies, noise anxiety is when loud or surprising sounds cause a dog to become anxious and distressed. Yes, our furry loved one’s amazing ears sometimes come with a price.
A number of things trigger noise anxiety in dogs. Here are some of the most common triggers.
- Car Backfires
Really though, any unexpected or loud noise can set off an anxious response in some dogs. It’s possible that a dog has negative historical experiences with loud noises. One study found that dogs experiencing underlying pain were more likely to develop noise anxiety (source). Since a loud or startling noise causes a dog to tense up or shiver, it aggravates their pain. Experiencing more pain in association with the noise can easily lead to noise anxiety in the dog.
However, it’s not necessary for something bad to have happened in connection with noise for a dog to develop anxiety about it. Overwhelming noise alone stirs up a lot of distress for a number of canines.
Ways to Help Ease Your Dog’s Noise Anxiety
While we sympathize with our four-legged friend’s emotional struggle, we often grow frustrated at what we perceive to be their overreaction to sounds we know aren’t going to harm them. Even though the dog doesn’t know that nothing will harm them… Cycle of frustration. However, the good thing is there are a number of ways to help dogs through these anxious situations.
Start by limiting your dog’s exposure to the noise that is making them anxious. If it’s not possible to remove them from the environment the noise is coming from, then using dog ear plugs for noise is a helpful option. This dampens the sound the dog hears, making it much less scary. They can also double as hearing protection for dogs by reducing the physical stress that loud noise creates on their eardrums.
You can also try cancelling out the anxiety-inducing noise with another type of sound. Try turning on the radio or the tv and see if your dog focuses on the sounds coming from them instead.
Remember Noise Anxiety Is Very Real To Your Dog
While we have strong reasoning and logic skills, we know that most noises that cause dogs to become skittish can’t hurt them. However, it’s important to remember that the feelings your noise anxious dog experiences when confronted with loud or unknown sounds IS truly frightening to them. Always think of your dog’s anxiety as real, and work to help your pup become more at ease and calm – it takes a little time, positive rewards, and in some cases, a good pair of dog earplugs!