Dog Ear

Have you ever opened a can of dog food and marveled at how your old dog’s supposedly “impaired” hearing somehow managed to magically get him to levitate from his comfy spot on the couch?

That white dog from RCA's ads in the 1930s really nailed it. His cutely cocked head, as he observes an old-timey Victrola, is both iconic and telling: He’s all about the sound.

Even without having to employ the can opener test, everyone knows that dogs are highly attuned to auditory cues. It’s a feature that not only reflects their profound intelligence but also reveals how very, very good they are at hearing things when they feel like it.

Within the last 15,000 years, as dogs have become domesticated, this skill has become more highly attuned by virtue of selective breeding. Wild canids, like wolves, don’t seem to have the same kind of auditory abilities that our couch potatoes do.

In the long course of our interspecies association, whistles, whines, whimpers, barks and verbal commands have become key to human-canine relationships. So it should come as no surprise that what your dog hears matters to her — a lot! Every whistle of the kettle and jingle of the keys mean something to your dog.

But what does it mean for you?

Answer: You’re probably ignoring a significant part of your relationship with your pet. Veterinarians know this, which is why we counsel our clients to remain aware of their dogs’ auditory decline in later years. It’s also why we encourage our clients to make the best of their canine’s auditory acuity.

Here are a few novel ways in which you can deepen your bond with your pet — and keep tabs on how well she hears.

Classical Music for Canines

A collaboration between a veterinary neurologist and a Juilliard-trained musician produced the Through a Dog's Ear series of CDs, which Dr. Marty Becker recently touted as a top pick calming product for pets. I’m a classical music junkie, so it’s no shock that I’d push Mozart on my dogs.

A Toy That Emits Animal Sounds

When I clicked on the link for the X-Tire Animal Sounds Ball, an unexpected cacophony ensued: My dogs went wild! This toy must have some mystical animal powers.

Thunderstorm Phobia Therapy

I know it sounds crazy, but some dogs go so crazy over thunderstorms that behaviorists like Patricia McConnell have started to recommend thunderstorm CDs to help slowly reduce a dog’s sensitivity to such anxiety-provoking sounds.

Make no mistake: Dogs are brilliant. But, based on the above recommendations, there's no doubt that veterinarians respect the fear component of audition — as well as its positive aspects.

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