Last Saturday my family and I were enjoying an early evening barbeque, when a eager child- of say around age 40, decided that he had waited long enough for the upcoming celebration. Dragging a small arsenal of fireworks from his garage he called all the neighborhoods’ children over to enjoy the display. Somewhere in the midst of all the pop and glitter, Dublin, our friends aged and allegedly deaf Pit Bull burst through the hedges and attacked the erupting sparkles like a baited fighting dog.
His owners did not fear displaced aggression, whereby a dog might turn and bite the hand that tried to separate him from his provocation; they had both seen and dealt with it before. “He doesn’t like fireworks; he never has.” As I anthropomorphized that Dublin had “Saved the Children from a most formidable foe,” he was locked in an upstairs bedroom with a large bowl of water. His mouth, fully examined, had suffered no burns.
The questioned raised that night was how did Dublin recognize the fireworks if he could not hear them? My proposed reasoning will also reveal why fireworks are so offensive and/or intensely frightening to dogs. First it is helpful to understand how a dog’s hearing differs from our own.
Though many people assume that dog’s hear better than we do, this is not the case for all sounds. Noises that are recognized by the brain, enter the ear in waves: The lower the pitch of the sound, the lower the frequency of the sound pressure peaks that hit the ear; the higher the pitch, the greater the frequency of the waves undulations. The actually pitch of a sound (i.e. high versus low notes) is indicated in a measurement know as Hertz, or Hz, which is really nothing more than the number of sound pressure peaks that hit the ear in a second. Sounds important for understanding human speech range from about 500-4,000 Hz, and consequently human s have ears with their peak sensitivity in that range.
Dog’s hearing isn’t better than humans for these sounds however since dogs evolved from a species that hunted for survival, their hearing is more sensitive to high pitched sounds of animals rustling in the leaves and emitting scrabbling noises in hidden spaced. For this reason a dog’s frequency range extends higher, to between 47,000 Hz and 60,000 Hz. Thus when referring to our different perceptions, it is more accurate to say that dog’s respond to a broader range of auditory experiences.
With regards to Dublin, I suspect that two forces took hold: one, he saw the erratic lighting and had instant memory recall, setting his familiar pattern in motion, and two—though his hearing was diminished, he wasn’t stone deaf and thus recognized the unique high frequency waves, tripping his predatory responses in motion.
With regards to the 4th of July walk a mile in your dog’s paw and guard his ears every way you can. Create a relaxing space with familiar bedding and calming music or take him to a friends house or kennel where quiet reigns and any abrupt noises with not be related to his home space.