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The dog's hearing

© Diffomédia/Royal Canin

A dog’s hearing is twice as good as a human’s. A dog can hear sound frequencies up to two and a half times higher than those human ears can perceive. Dogs can even hear ultrasounds, which explains why dog whistles are so effective. They are very good at distinguishing between different sounds, which means that they can easily make out words spoken to them, although tone of voice and gesture are also very important in this regard.


The external ear is a cartilaginous structure covered by skin and muscles, forming a mobile pinna that can be oriented to the source of sound, like a radar antenna. The pinna runs into the external ear canal, a cartilaginous canal covered in very fine skin, which is firstly vertical then horizontal. It ends in a very fine membrane, the eardrum. Thus, the outer ear collects sounds, which are directed into the middle ear.

The middle ear is the resonance chamber. In contact with sound waves the eardrum vibrates and causes the vibration of the three ossicles – the malleus (hammer), stapes (stirrups) and incus (anvil) – in the middle ear cavity by a lever system. This mechanism enables sounds to be conveyed to the inner ear, amplifying them while reducing the violent vibrations, since the ossicles have limited amplitude.

The inner ear is split into two parts, each with a very different role. The cochlea converts the sound waves into nerve signals and sends them to the brain via the auditory nerve. The semicircular canals contain tiny hairs that are able to perceive the position of the head and play a role in balance.

The pinna contains several nerves, including the vagus, which slows down the heart. This nerve is stimulated when the ears are cropped, which can cause problems with anaesthesia. This procedure is now banned in many countries and is unnecessary for dogs participating in shows or as part of pedigree standards.

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