Puppy dog eyes and floppy ears are powerful assets helping dogs everywhere win over the hearts of us humans. But they serve a much greater purpose in how our dogs interact with the world around them. Keep reading to learn more about your dog’s sense of sound and sight — a myth or two may be busted along the way.
The average dog’s sense of hearing is four times as sensitive as our own. This might not be a surprise if you’ve spent time looking at their ears. Although doggy ears come in different shapes and sizes — long, short, floppy, stiff and everything in between — one thing all dog ears have that ours do not is an impressive amount of mobility. More than 18 muscles control a dog’s earflap alone, allowing nuanced movements to pick up detailed sounds. Dogs use their ears like periscopes to follow the direction of sound.
Dogs can also hear many things we cannot. Their ears can detect high-frequency sounds that are inaudible to most humans. For example, dogs can hear the high-pitched chirping of mice, even if they are running around inside walls.
Some of the electronics in our homes emit constant high-frequency sounds that we may not notice but our dogs do. They may even find it distressing. Something you can do to reduce electronic noise pollution in the home is to unplug devices when not in use, or you could even create an electronic-free room for your dog to relax in.
It is a common misconception that dogs can only see in black and white. Dogs actually see the world in a similar way a person who has red-green color blindness would see it. In fact, a dog’s sight is the product of evolution and a dog’s natural instinct to hunt.
A person with 20/20 vision has excellent eyesight. The average dog has 20/50 eyesight. Technically, dogs are nearsighted. The average person has a visual field of 180 degrees, dogs have a visual field of about 250 degrees — because their eyes are set farther apart than ours. This is a very helpful adaptation if you’re a hunter. Dogs also have us beat when it comes to night vision, and sensitivity to motion — a trait that helps wolves spot and track prey. Most humans may be able to see a wider spectrum of colors than dogs, but the ability to see vivid hues of red or blue didn’t help a dog’s natural prey drive — so they adapted without it!
The moral of the story
Comparing a dog’s senses to humans gives us a handy benchmark to appreciate how dogs perceive their world. But it truly is comparing apples to oranges, because both species’ senses have adapted to meet their survival needs. The next time you’re staring into your dog’s gentle eyes or scratching their soft ears, don’t forget to appreciate how impressive they truly are!