How can dogs detect dog whistles, but people can’t?

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Dog whistles are an effective way of getting a dog’s attention, because they make a sound that is in the upper half of the audible frequency range. Dogs can hear up to 40 kilohertz, while a human ear can only hear up to 20 kilohertz. Therefore, a dog whistle that is tuned at a frequency between 20 kilohertz and 40 kilohertz, will be audible to a dog, but not to a human ear.

Dog whistles are much like normal whistles in that they work by having air forced down a cylinder and expelled out a small split at the end. The shorter the cylinder is, the higher the pitch of the whistle will be. For this reason, many dog whistles are small, with short cylinders and splits that are positioned at a sharp edge to create a high frequency sound wave.

High frequency sounds catch a dog’s attention much more quickly than low frequency sounds. This is because high frequency sounds are abnormal in our everyday lives. Most sounds that dogs hear on a regular basis are under 20 kilohertz and audible to both humans and dogs. When a dog hears a frequency that is much higher than everyday noises, they will pay more attention to that sound, making a dog whistle an effective way of getting a dog’s attention quickly, and teaching him or her new commands.

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