Many people are surprised to discover that puppies are born without the ability to hear or to see. Unlike other species of animals, a puppy enters this world without fully mature ears and eyes. These faculties are sealed tightly shut for another few weeks in the development cycle before opening and being introduced to the puppy’s new world. Without the ability to see, hear, or walk, neo-nates are highly dependent upon their natural inclination towards both scent and heat to remain close to their mothers where they can receive the proper food supply and warmth to continue the development process. When does a puppy learn to hear?
The Developmental Process of a Puppy
Puppies are born both blind and deaf, an interesting concept for many to understand. Trying to navigate the world without being able to see or hear seems like an impossible mission for a human being. Yet puppies are born with an innate ability to use their sense of smell and their desire for heat to direct them to the places they need to be to have their needs met.
Though a puppy is born with his eyes already fully developed, they are not mature enough to be able to handle the strength of daylight until the puppy is approximately 10-14 days of age. It is during this period that a puppy will open his eyes for the first time.
However, ears are an entirely different matter. When a puppy is born into the world, his ears are not yet fully developed. Experts agree that it takes approximately three weeks before a puppy’s ears have developed sufficiently to allow him to hear his surroundings. Though a puppy will open his eyes for the first time between 10-14 days of age, hearing takes up to a week longer to appear.
Amazing things happen in these first two to three weeks of life. Though your puppy is born without the ability to hear, he certainly makes up for lost time from the moment her hears his very first sound. Human beings can hear noises in the 40-20,000 Hertz spectrum. By comparison, your puppy’s sense of hearing is far more acute with the ability to detect sounds from 60 to 60,000 Hertz. Much of this relates to pitch. Our dogs are able to hear extremely high registers that elude human ears; however, they never develop the ability to recognize lower pitch frequencies unlike their human counterparts. It is believed that when it comes to hearing, our dogs are up to four times better at it than we are.
But it’s not just hearing that your puppy develops during those first few weeks of life. Puppies contain many muscles within and around the base of the ear that allow them to move their ears in a variety of different directions. Dogs contain 18 muscles in their ears as opposed to only three in human beings.
How does this affect hearing?
The ability to move their ears in a particular direction enables a puppy to target and identify sounds more acutely. This is why you may see your dog cock their head to one side in the direction of a noise or notice their ears perking up. Proximity to a specific sound makes it far easier for a dog to identify it. The closer your pup can get to noise he is trying to decipher, the better. If a dog cannot move his physical location, he can align his ears slightly differently to sharpen his sense of hearing.
Interesting Facts about Dog Hearing
The study of hearing in dogs is a fascinating topic. Here is a list of some of the top fun facts about pooches and their ears:
Dogs use their ears to communicate.
Dogs’ ears form an important part of their communication strategy. Our dogs may not be able to tell us how they are feeling or what they are thinking, but they certainly can give us lots of clues using their ears. Ears held in a natural position are often an indication of a dog who is feeling rather zen while ears that are on high alert communicate interest or alertness to a particular noise or situation. Dogs can also express emotions such as fear, aggression, or submissiveness; all by simply changing the position of their ears.
Dogs have L-shaped ear canals.
The L-shape of a dog’s ear canal acts as a deterrent for debris, dirt, and harmful bacteria. However, what keeps the dirt out can also trap it inside.
Due to the interesting shape of the ear, it is important that you never insert anything in your dog’s ear as you run the risk of puncturing the delicate eardrum and causing your dog intense pain. Your veterinarian can give you a demonstration on the proper technique for cleaning your dog’s ears. They will also most likely sell the correct solution you can use to assist you with this process.
Ear infections are the most common reason dogs see a vet each year.
Ear infections are quite common in dogs; particularly in those with long floppy ears. The best way to avoid an ear infection is by regular inspection of your pooch’s ears and proper cleaning.
Dogs’ ears come in many different shapes and sizes.
Rose ears, prick ears, hound ears, and more…there are all kinds of different shapes and sizes when it comes to ears. Some of the most common types include the prick ears found on Rat Terriers and German Shepherds, round-tipped ears like those of the French Bulldog, bat ears which appear almost oversized for the breed which are commonly seen on Corgis, and drop ears as sported by the Basset Hound or Beagle.
When does a puppy learn to hear?
While each dog is an individual, puppies most typically start to hear sounds at three weeks of age. But once they detect that first noise, it’s full steam ahead!