Your Dog's Sense of Hearing
While music is created by humans, they do not have a monopoly on its effects. It has been shown that dairy farmers produce better yields from their cows by playing different kinds of music in the milking stalls. In the days of Brahms, Beethoven and Mozart, the majority of music was melodic, without any lyrical content. Animals, as well as humans, have shown a positive reaction to soothing music, its melody and the feeling that it conveys.
But how does your dog's sense of hearing compare to your own? What he actually hears is different to our own reception. We will come to receptive frequencies later, but it is language that makes humans different to all other species on the planet. Let's say that your dog is called Pickles. He can probably understand three words in English: 'Pickles', 'walk', and 'dinner'. Maybe a few more, if he is a clever boy, and has been trained. Dogs can understand the sounds of words, but only by association. They will never know what the words mean. The sound of 'Pickles' will be associated with love by the human family, although he will not know that thisis his 'name' and 'walk' or 'dinner' will be associated by the same things.
Language corrupts our innate senses. Because humans have been brought up to think in terms of made-up words, we rely less on our other senses to understand the world. We talk to our babies, to help them to learn to speak. But we also talk to our dogs: they will never understand the words, but appreciate the affectionate or instructive tone of voice in which they are delivered. It is by the tone of voice that our pets understand what we are trying to convey.
Dogs can have an upper-frequency hearing limit of 50,000Hz-60,000Hz, whereas the upper limit of human hearing is only 20,000Hz. This is why humans are unable to hear a dog whistle. But dogs, just like humans, lose their hearing as they grow older.
The emotional effect of music is felt just as much by dogs as it is by humans. Also, the calming effect of music and human speech can have a terrific effect on calming dogs. Leaving the radio on in your home when you are out, leaving your dog on his own, is a proven way of soothing him, creating the impression that he is not alone. Radio and CDs are also very effective when building a 'nest' for your dog, when disturbing activities, such as Fireworks Night, are being enjoyed by humans outside. Your dog will not understand the excitement outside, so a retreat for him inside, with the comforting sounds of speech and music, will help get him through what can be a traumatic time.
Just as dogs respond to the sounds of human voices as stimuli, so they can be trained to understand musical signals and associations. Play your dog a jingle or part of a song when its dinner time, or time for a W-A-L-K, and he will quickly realise the connection between the sound and the music. This may be fun for your family, and can be put to use, but do remember that your pet is not a laboratory animal. He deserves just as much love as the rest of the family.
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