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What do dogs see at night

What do dogs see at night


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What do dogs see at night?

For the last several years, we've taken a close look at what doggos see.

In 2009, we found evidence that dogs see color better than we do, and in 2010, we saw that they detect the shape of objects better than most people. Now, in 2016, the research is all about dogs hearing in the dark.

Our new paper, published in the journal Visual Neuroscience, showed that dogs can also hear (better than humans) under dim, night-vision-mixed light, including at a level of light that's similar to the light produced by a streetlamp, according to a statement from the authors.

The researchers had 40 dogs and 30 people go through a test called an otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test to measure hearing. The OAE is a part of the inner ear that allows sound to get to the hearing cells. The OAE test is very quick and easy.

What do dogs hear better than people do?

Under white light, dogs seemed to hear better in both the short and long range. That difference increased in more-dark conditions.

Under red light, dogs had better hearing in the short-range spectrum.

Under mixed light conditions, dogs had better hearing in the long-range spectrum, but not in the short range.

"To our knowledge, this is the first time that OAE has been successfully used in humans, which is exciting," said the study's senior author, Susan J. Tsuchida, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. "It would be interesting to see what the range of human hearing is for different types of light and colors, and whether those range of abilities are similar to those in the dog."

The researchers also found that in dogs, the range of light sensitivity is about the same as for their human counterparts.

How they did the test

They tested both the canines and the humans in the hospital under three conditions:

Light condition: White or red light, with the two colors presented alternately.

White or red light, with the two colors presented alternately. Distance: A sound was played, and the frequency of that sound changed (low to high), with the sound gradually decreasing in frequency until it was undetectable.

A sound was played, and the frequency of that sound changed (low to high), with the sound gradually decreasing in frequency until it was undetectable. Time: A low-frequency sound was played for a certain amount of time, then the frequency was turned up. This happened for eight minutes, and the volume started out very low, increasing to a comfortable level.

White or red light, with the two colors presented alternately. Frequency: The researchers made a series of sounds, ranging from low to high. Each sound was played for a certain amount of time, until it was heard by the subject. They also measured the time it took for each sound to reach that point.

White or red light, with the two colors presented alternately.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

For the humans, the frequency of sound heard on a given day matched the frequency for a sound in the dog's environment. Humans' hearing doesn't depend on the time of day.

"The most interesting thing about the results was that the differences in thresholds between humans and dogs were similar to those found when using red light alone," says Dr. Burt. "So if you've used red light before with a dog, you may be able to use this for humans, too."

Can you hear the difference?

The human in this study was able to detect the frequencies used in the study, but only to a low degree.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

It's important to note that the frequency difference doesn't need to be large for the humans to notice the difference in sounds. It's just that the threshold is higher for humans than for dogs.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Humans also have a greater range of frequencies for hearing.

"We don't know the precise mechanism of what's happening here, but it's possible that what is sensed by dogs may just be a subset of what is heard by humans," says Dr. Burt. "The dog's ability to detect frequencies they didn't use could reflect their ability to use a broader range of frequencies in their day-to-day environment."

Human senses

The researchers also tested the dogs for their abilities to hear some other kinds of sounds. The tests included human vocalizations and low-pitched sounds.

"We found that the dogs were especially good at detecting sound at or below their hearing threshold," says Dr. Burt.

So how could this help dogs find a lost child or lead the dog to a wounded animal? The researchers believe the "super dog" skill could eventually be used to help humans in dangerous situations, too.

"If this is a skill that can be improved, it would be possible to use this to track soldiers in combat and rescue individuals who have become trapped or lost in caves," says Dr. Burt.

The researchers say they don't know how much this skill would cost to train. However, as of now, the dogs are not being used for military or law enforcement work.

"We are just at the beginning of this line of research," says Dr. Burt. "Our next steps will be to further explore the ability to detect lower frequencies and to understand how this is affected by dog-owner interactions. We also want to test the ability to detect these other sounds in other dogs."

Explore further Discovery of an enhanced dog sense

More information: M. D. Burt et al. A canine auditory skill at the limit of human hearing, Scientific Reports (2018). Journal information: Scientific Reports M. D. Burt et al. A canine auditory skill at the limit of human hearing,(2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-27299-1


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