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My Pet World: How does my dog know my son was coming home?

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

When our son was in his carousing years, and we had our border collie, she would sleep in his room until he got home in the wee hours. She would get up and go to the front door when she heard his 1982 Datsun turn onto our block from 10 houses away. How could she hear any car that far away, and how would she know it was his car? That was 40 years ago, but it still amazes me.

— Richard, Westbury, New York

Dear Richard,

Dogs have a much keener sense of hearing than we do. In fact, in most instances, dogs can hear 100 times better than humans, depending on the frequency of the sound. Human adults cannot hear sounds above 20,000 Hertz (Hz). On the other hand, dogs can hear sounds as high as 47,000 to 65,000 Hz.

So, your dog can not only hear the car as it turns onto the street but recognizes some higher frequency engine sounds that you and I can't hear. That incredible sense of hearing, combined with your son perhaps arriving around the same time during those wee hours, is how your dog knew your son would be pulling into the driveway at any moment.


Dear Cathy,

I had the opposite advice from my local animal control about a neighbor's barking dog. They told me to speak with my neighbor before making an official complaint. I did so, but it didn't make a difference, so I went back to animal control, and they said I could take them to court. I didn't do that because I didn't know what kind of people I was dealing with and feared possible retaliation. We have been putting up with the barking.

— Carol, Newington, Connecticut

Note: Carol is referring to a letter in which I had suggested the reader call animal control to report a barking/noise complaint and let them handle it rather than confront a neighbor they don't know well. Sometimes, approaching neighbors can be difficult since most people get defensive in these circumstances and become adversarial. Letting the experts at animal control handle something like this is always better because they can educate the pet owner about local pet ordinances.


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