We all know that dogs react to sounds in different ways depending upon what the sound is. We use a lot of sounds to train our dogs and get them to listen to us. Some sounds are loud, while others are more subtle. Some sounds like dog whistles can only be heard by dogs and not by the human ear.
But how much do we know about the long list of possible sounds dogs may hear and the impact that they may have on them?
In general, we know that dogs tend to love upbeat, pleasant sounds as well as sounds that signal something good is about to happen. We also know that dogs hate really loud noises like bangs, roars, or harsh tones. Let’s explore the variety of sounds that dogs may hear that they either love or hate, or in some cases, have little interest in.
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Sounds that Dogs Love
Everyday Familiar Sounds and Associations
Just about every dog who has bonded with his owner loves the sound of his favorite human’s voice. The sound of your voice is familiar, reassuring, and represents good things for your dog.
Every time I leave my dogs at the groomers for their bath and de-shedding, they are not usually too happy even when they hear my mantra each time I leave them, “I’ll be back!” After their bath and brushing, they are placed in a large area with a short 3-foot wall and gate where they can run around with other dogs as they wait for pick up. When I walk in they are usually running around sniffing somebody’s butt. But as soon as I speak and greet the staff, they run over to where I am standing poking their noses above the guard rail to see me.
In addition to sounds associated with us, our dogs also like the sound of things that may mean something good will happen such as keys or leashes jingling; refrigerators being opened; kibble being poured into their bowls; the garage door opening (“honey, I’m home”); or other cues that signal something important to them.
I have noticed that each time that I say “goodbye” on the phone or when I close my iPad, both of my dogs jump up and look at me. Now they can get my attention and convince me to take them for a walk or dole out some tasty treats. Dogs pay attention to our every word to try to interpret what we might be signaling. See more about this in my post Does Your Dog Understand Full Conversations?
Types of Sounds that Dogs Love to Hear
In addition to the sounds that dogs associate with good things, there are a number of sounds that dogs instinctively love to hear and find interesting, exciting, or pleasing. Here is a partial list:
- Bird sounds
- Small wild animal sounds
- Certain types of music
- The bark of a related dog or buddy
- Ticking clocks
- Rustling trees
- Babies laughing
Obviously dogs like the pleasant sounds of nature that represent a peaceful environment. Other sounds such as birds or small animal noises stimulate their natural prey instinct and will alert and excite a dog to prepare for a chase. That is why so many dog toys have high-pitched squeak boxes to provide a little fun and excitement.
Composers of classical music were often inspired by nature and music with a tempo of 50-60 beats per minute seem to be loved most by dogs. See my post, Are Dogs Musical? for more information about how dogs respond to music.
Dogs have strong reactions to higher-pitched noises such as doorbells, small bells, and whistles, which may remind them of the sound that small prey animals make. When my dogs hear the high-pitched sounds of cats in heat at midnight they absolutely go nuts and wake me and everyone around us up! But quiet ticking clocks, on the other hand, seem to have a calming effect. The steady low beat of a clock is thought to remind a dog of his mother’s beating heart.
Sounds that Dogs Hate
Dogs have very sensitive ears and can hear much better than humans. They also can hear a much wider range of tones which are sometimes outside what the human ear can perceive. Therefore dogs really hate extremely loud sounds. It actually hurts their ears.
Additionally, sounds that are harsh, grating, booming, or explosive sounding can be very upsetting to dogs. Here are some examples:
- High pitched frequencies like smoke alarms
- Yelling and loud scolding
- Words spoken in harsh tones
- Heavy metal music
- Loud action-packed TV shows
- Heavy winds
- Coyotes howling
- Any loud bang or explosion
- Loud, clanking vehicles like garbage trucks or buses
- Car Alarms
- Jet planes and sometimes helicopters
- Vacuum cleaners or other loud machinery like jackhammers
- Crying babies
Many of the noises and loud sounds that dogs hate are human-made, but some of the sounds in nature such as thunderstorms and wild prey animals can be frightening as well.
Since dogs are so sensitive, speaking to them in calming, upbeat tones can be very reassuring especially when exposed to loud noises. Just be aware that any of these sounds that dogs generally hate, can be traumatic for them. Try to remove your dog from the noise or provide comfort measures such as a Thundershirt available at Chewy for storms and fireworks. I sometimes give my dogs Calming Bites, peanut butter flavored supplements, on the 4th of July
Dogs are also very sensitive to our tone of voice. I find it interesting that dogs respond to crying babies. They instinctively seem to feel protective of this small, little life and will sometimes try to soothe a baby by licking him or standing close by.
Sounds that Calm Dogs
A recent study that rotated different types of sounds for 31 shelter dogs found that the human spoken voice actually seemed to help dogs rest more. You can see more about this study here. Even though the dogs seemed to love the four types of sounds played — classical music, pop songs, music specifically designed for dogs, and audiobooks– the narrated books seemed to provide a little more reassurance and comfort. See my post, Why Reading to Dogs is So Beneficial for dog reading programs in shelters. The quiet tones of the human voice seem to reassure frightened shelter dogs, who don’t always know if a human will be their friend or foe.
Here is a list of things that tend to help soothe and calm a dog:
- Classical, pop, and reggae music with a slow beat
- Sounds of nature
- Being read to
- Positive tones and words
- Ticking clocks
- White noise
- Low volume, easy listening TV and radio shows
- People talking quietly
Shelters and vets often play soothing classical music for dogs to help keep them calm. If you want to provide something calming for your dog at home, Pandora, YouTube, and DogTV all have relaxing dog-designed music to engage and soothe your dog. You can also buy a specially designed Pet Acoustic Pet Tunes speaker from Chewy with music programmed into it.
Be aware of how sounds impact your dog. Pay attention to your dog’s body language and try to adjust the environment to provide reassuring and comforting sounds that will help your dog relax, and enjoy his home with you.