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how well can dogs hear?

18 August 2011

Dogs have Really, Really Good Hearing

It’s true. If you have supernatural hearing, butter is never far away.

Dogs use their acute hearing to hear a range of sounds—including food-related ones—that are well beyond the auditory range of their owners. Elephants, at least in the world of Dr. Seuss, also hear much better than humans. After Horton heard Jo-Jo Who’s frantic cry for help in Horton Hears a Who, the entire town of Whoville was happily saved for generations of young readers. Bats and owls are other animals renowned for their hearing.

In the wild, good hearing, of course, helps animals locate dinner opportunities. If you can’t hear, you generally don’t eat well, or at all. In the home, where domesticated softees like our Great Dane puppy Luna reside, good hearing comes in handy when you’re looking for calories in between regular meals.

A Love Affair with Butter

I’ve previously chronicled Luna’s unabashed affection for Julia Child’s favorite ingredient. This love affair with butter grows.

This morning, Luna was upstairs sprawled across 2/3 of our bed. MW was downstairs making toast. Noticing the empty butter pot, a vessel with which Luna is very familiar, MW grabbed a stick from the fridge and started unwrapping it.

Now most toast makers and chefs would not consider butter paper to be particularly noisy. It’s not rigid, and even when you tear it, the sound is in no way loud. While you can usually hear it across a kitchen in a private home, the sound certainly doesn’t travel like a home run cheer or a high school drum line practicing at night (the latter happens frequently in our neighborhood).

Dogs and Faraway Sounds

Yet the modest sound MW made was loud enough to travel across the kitchen floor, around the corner, and up the stairs to the landing where it turned 180 degrees and continued to ascend. It navigated to the end of the second floor corridor where it turned left and, finally rising to the height of our very high sleigh bed, roused a relaxed butter lover into movement.

By the time it reached her floppy ears, the sound of torn butter paper was probably on a par with the decibel level Jo-Jo reached when alerting Horton. Pretty damn low. The next sound in the house wasn’t. It was the thunder of 90 lbs launching itself from a height of 30” on to the carpet and racing downstairs with the urgency that her greatest fantasy was once again in stock and available to her tongue.

A crazed descent and skid along the kitchen’s stone floor brought Luna to an unbalanced halt beside MW. Sadly, MW was not in a sharing kind of way.

For a puppy, Luna’s pretty good about living with disappointment. When MW replaced the top on the now-full butter pot, our puppy’s aspirations for a bit of dairy, initially launched by her superb sense of hearing, went unrealized.

Luna’s solution? Slouch over to the sofa, hop up, and sleep off the disappointment until noon.

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