Puppies are adorable balls of energy that bring excitement and happiness into our lives. Young puppies are curious about the world around them. Using their senses to explore their surroundings, they are eager to experience all that they can.
This can make us wonder if they can hear the same things that we do. We know that dogs have a greater sense of hearing than people, but at what age does this hearing develop? When do puppies start hearing?
Puppies are born deaf and don’t develop a sense of hearing until they are roughly 3 weeks old.
When puppies are born, they can’t see or hear. Their eyes and ear canals are closed. They have senses of touch, taste, and smell, and the smell sense develops further as they grow.
Puppies rely completely on their mother for the first 2 weeks of life. They need to be fed and kept warm because they cannot navigate the world by themselves.
2–4 Weeks Old
After the newborn stage is the transitional stage, where sensory development continues. The puppy’s eyes start to open and their sense of hearing enhances. This is when puppies start to play with their littermates. They also start to walk, wag their tails, and bark.
At this stage, puppies can hear loud noises and things moving around them, but they won’t be able to decipher sounds or fully hear them until later in their development.
3–12 Weeks Old
Puppies grow quickly during this stage. By 4–5 weeks old, puppies have a well-developed sense of sight. This is known as the socialization stage, when puppies are becoming familiar with people, other animals, their littermates, and their surroundings. They’re learning social skills and how to play with their siblings.
Puppies can start to differentiate between sounds and learn to understand their names at around 5–7 weeks old. Their hearing won’t be fully developed until they are around 2 months old.
Why Can’t Puppies Hear at Birth?
It has to do with evolution. Puppies are born with two vital senses being completely unusable for the first few weeks of their lives.
When the canine species was evolving, packs of wild dogs would live together, hunting and foraging for food. Pregnant dogs carrying litters of puppies moved slower and couldn’t effectively keep up or do their part for the pack. It was in the best interest of the species for dogs to have a shorter gestation period, where the puppies would continue to develop outside the womb. This enabled the mother dog to get back to being a useful part of the pack and to outrun predators. In the time between hunting activities, the mother dog could return to nurse and care for their young as they grew.
While puppies are born helpless, they can survive outside of the womb with the care of their mother. Delivering them at this stage helps the mother dog get back to normal sooner.
Another reason puppies can’t hear at birth is that their ear canals aren’t fully developed. If they were forced to respond to sounds that their inner ears were not ready for, it could damage their hearing permanently.
How to Tell If a Puppy Cannot Hear
It can be hard to tell if your puppy is hearing correctly. If you have a mother dog with newborn puppies, they should be responding to sounds at 3 weeks of age. As they grow, they should respond to noises in their surroundings more.
By 8 weeks of age, puppies should have a fully developed sense of hearing, and this is usually when they start to go to their new homes. At this age, your puppy should react to your voice, and you will be able to get their attention by speaking.
If you notice that your puppy is not reacting to surprising sounds, like you clapping your hands, squeaking a toy, whistling, or jingling your keys, you may want to bring them in for a hearing check at the veterinarian. Some puppies are just easily distracted, and it may take more work to get their attention.
Puppies start hearing at around 3 weeks old. While they are born deaf, their hearing develops quickly and should be fully developed at 2 months old. Your puppy should react to sounds, especially surprising noises, by this age.
If you think that your puppy may not be hearing well or at all, take them to the veterinarian for a hearing check.
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Featured Image Credit: Rosa Jay, Shutterstock