While dogs are typically known for their prominent sniffers, their hearing ability is a close contender. They can hear things we’re unable to and are attuned to sounds expressing emotion. That’s why it’s not surprising that some sounds we may readily dismiss – like thunderstorms or vacuum cleaners – can rile up our pups.
You probably already know which sounds drive your dog nuts, but what about sounds dogs love? Knowing which sounds positively affect our best pals can aid in creating comfortable environments for them – which ultimately benefits their wellbeing.
While it’s important to keep in mind that every dog is different and individual preferences will vary, we’ve outlined some sounds for dogs we think your pup might enjoy.
Sounds for Dogs 101
Dogs have an acute sense of hearing that in some ways surpasses ours. One is the phenomenon of sounds only dogs can hear, like high-pitched dog whistles. “At very high pitches, a dog’s hearing is exponentially better (over a hundred times better) than a person’s hearing,” says Dr. Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer for the American Kennel Club, based in New York City. ”The average adult person can’t hear sounds above 20,000 hertz. Dogs can hear high pitched sounds as high as 47,000-65,000 hertz.”
They can also register softer sounds more acutely, Dr. Klein adds. “Dogs can hear sounds between -5 and -15 decibels, sounds not loud enough for human’s hearing.”
According to Dr. Klein, this supersonic hearing is partly a product of their heritage. “As we’ve learned from wolves, a distant relative, their predatory background required them to hear minute sounds of small animals like mice and other small animals to catch for survival as well as for protection,” he explains.
Canine evolution is just one aspect of how dogs internalize sound, though. Individual dogs likely react to noise largely based on associations made with past experiences, says Dr. Carley Faughn, senior strategist for lifesaving research at Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, and a board-certified applied animal behaviorist.
For example, when someone knocks at the door or rings the doorbell, “they might bark in excitement, jump playfully, and show loose body language if that sound typically follows someone entering the house that they enjoy spending time with,” she explains. On the other hand, “they might bark, charge the door, and growl if they experienced a prior negative association with this sound.”
In other words, a given sound can mean different things to different dogs.
Why Do Dogs Like Certain Sounds?
When it comes to dogs, sounds associated with pleasant experiences will typically cause them to react favorably. “Some common noises dogs like are things related to food, like the crinkle of a treat bag, rustling of a food bin, opening of a can, [or] noises their toys make and their owners’ voices,” says Dr. Ashley Barnes, medical director at Louisville Family Animal Hospital in Louisville, Colorado.
Our dogs are individuals with personal preferences and varied histories, however, so their reactions to certain sounds will differ. “If a dog enjoys a certain sound, then they might tilt their head predictably in interest, they might show signs of excitement like barking and jumping playfully, or they might simply relax and fall asleep,” says Faughn. “Similar to humans, music, for example, can have different effects on different people and dogs.”
Differences in their bodies versus ours also play a role in how our best friends react to noise. We can hear sounds from all directions without having to move our head, neck, or ears, according to Dr. Klein, “whereas a dog will often lift an ear or cock their head to hear more clearly, especially some dogs with higher or unusually pitched sounds.”
How Do Puppies Respond to Sounds?
Dr. Faughn explains that puppies react a bit differently to sound than adult dogs. “Most likely some sounds that puppies like might differ from adult dogs because they have not yet lived long enough to build associations – positive or negative – with certain sounds,” she says.
8 Sounds Dogs Love
Learning to differentiate between sounds dogs love and sounds that make dogs go crazy can give insight into what triggers those negative reactions, says Dr. Barnes. “People can also use sounds to aid in training as dogs tend to respond well to sounds that are associated with positive experiences.”
Again, keep in mind that dogs are individuals, so it’s possible yours may not fall in love with all the sounds on our list.
Certain Genres of Music
Though dogs can have personal music preferences like we do, they seem to gravitate to certain genres. Some research shows that dogs generally appear calmer while listening to classical tunes. Another study found that dogs have a preference for reggae and soft rock music genres. “Using evidence-based sensory stimulation, like playing reggae, can be a very useful tool especially in shelters where it can be stressful regardless of the design and enrichment provided,” says Dr. Faughn.
Dr. Faughn mentions the puppy programs at shelters and sanctuaries she’s overseen have used these music genres to create calmer environments. “And if the puppies are still nursing with their mom, then these sounds might relax her, which could in turn help the puppies to relax and begin building some positive associations with sounds around them.”
Squeaking may not be a sound we’re especially fond of (it can be downright irritating!), but to a dog it could signal something pleasant is about to happen. While some dogs may not like the sound of a squeaker toy because it will startle them, “others will come running as soon as you open that new toy and squeak it,” says Dr. Faughn. It may be that dogs enjoy the reward of chewing down on a toy that elicits a sound, or that it satisfies their prey drive.
The Sound of Food Containers Opening
What dog doesn’t love sounds letting them know dinner is about to be served? “Plates and silverware clicking, as well as food cans or bags opening, will get your dog thinking there is about to be a tasty treat coming their way,” says Dr. Amber Karwacki, a partner doctor at Heart + Paw at their Callowhill, Philadelphia location. The behavior is similar to that of Pavlov’s dogs, who learned to equate an assistant’s approaching footsteps with food.
Other Dogs’ Sounds
Dogs are social beings who thrive when they’re able to interact with people and other dogs. One of the ways they communicate is with vocalizations, like barking and howling. While barking can indicate fear, loneliness, or anxiety, it can also be a way for them to engage in positive experiences, like initiating play or creating strong bonds.
Your Soft Voice
The sound of your voice or that of a baby cooing can be calming to dogs, says Karwacki, “and a great way to get them to settle down.” Interestingly, dogs can differentiate between familiar voices and those of people they don’t know. They can also discern emotion, so keeping your voice soft and relaxed is essential.
While your dog may prefer the familiarity of your voice, the sound of other humans talking can also be calming. “Anecdotally, I have observed dogs relax when calm audiobooks with a soothing human voice are played,” says Dr. Faughn.
One study backs up this observation, finding that shelter dogs exposed to audiobooks benefited from their calming effects. In fact, the dogs studied spent more time in a relaxed state when exposed to audiobooks than to other controlled sounds, including classical and pop music, and specifically designed sounds for dogs.
“You might notice your dog getting very excited when they hear the sound of their leash, harness, treat bag, or other items that are associated with positive interactions such as going on a fun walk or enjoying a tasty treat,” says Dr. Faughn.
Keep in mind that leash sounds may not elicit a positive response in dogs who’ve had prior negative experiences with them. For example, some dogs may equate a leash solely with getting in the car and driving to the veterinarian.
Veterinarians say dogs who react negatively to loud noises like fireworks or thunderstorms can find refuge with white noise. And according to Klein, “White noise is said to be a good sound to have on near nursing puppies.”
White noise is effective because it serves as a distraction. It drowns out the sounds that annoy dogs so they can focus on the soothing hum.
How Good Dog Sounds Can Help
Knowing which sounds dogs love and which ones they dislike can help you create a more comfortable environment for them. For example, “You can play the comforting sounds when your puppy is by themselves,” says Dr. Karwacki. “With sounds that trigger a response, you can train your dog to relax and not react to the sounds so they learn to be calm no matter what they hear.”
Here are a few guidelines to help you create a positive environment using sounds dogs love.
Try Out Different Sounds
Test a couple of different reggae, soft rock, and soothing classical tunes to see if your dog has a preference, says Dr. Faughn. “This tool can be used when you see your dog expressing signs of stress, such as when you’re away from home. Audiobooks and music can go a long way to help our pets to relax in a variety of situations.” She also recommends trying out different dog toys with varying sounds to see which your dog prefers.
Switch Up Your Music
By continuously playing the same music, you run the risk of your dog adapting to it, which can cancel any potential benefits, says Dr. Faughn. “Changing the music out regularly might help your dog to continue enjoying a rotation of music over time.”
Experiment with Puppy Sounds
Slowly and positively expose puppies to various sounds they’re likely to encounter throughout their lives, says Dr. Faughn. For example, “Pairing a noise like the garage door opening with a tasty treat and rewarding them, with verbal praise or other things they like, when they appear to notice a noise or sound that might be new to them.”
Avoid Sounds That Make Dogs Go Crazy
Because dogs have such sensitive hearing, certain sounds like vacuums, thunder, and fireworks will affect some more intensely, says Dr. Klein. Even mundane household sounds that we may take for granted (such as a beeping smoke detector or faulty microwave oven) can upset dogs.
While many reactions to sound are tied to a dog’s past experiences, they can also be a product of canine evolution. “A very loud noise can signal danger in the wild, so dogs (and people) are programmed to pay attention when this happens,” says Dr. Barnes.
Don’t Forget About Body Language
A final tip from Klein: try to understand why your dog is reacting to a certain sound by reading body language. This includes “carriage of head and neck, carriage and motion of tail to differentiate from welcoming, alarming, playful, territorial, or frightened.”