Sound Localization Ability in Dogs

Cécile Guérineau, Miina Lõoke, Anna Broseghini, Giulio Dehesh, Paolo Mongillo, Lieta Marinelli (2022) Veterinary Sciences


The minimum audible angle (MAA), defined as the smallest detectable difference between the azimuths of two identical sources of sound, is a standard measure of spatial auditory acuity in animals. Few studies have explored the MAA of dogs, using methods that do not allow potential improvement throughout the assessment, and with a very small number of dog(s) assessed. To overcome these limits, we adopted a staircase method on 10 dogs, using a two-forced choice procedure with two sound sources, testing angles of separation from 60° to 1°. The staircase method permits the level of difficulty for each dog to be continuously adapted and allows for the observation of improvement over time. The dogs’ average MAA was 7.6°, although with a large interindividual variability, ranging from 1.3° to 13.2°. A global improvement was observed across the procedure, substantiated by a gradual lowering of the MAA and of choice latency across sessions. The results indicate that the staircase method is feasible and reliable in the assessment of auditory spatial localization in dogs, highlighting the importance of using an appropriate method in a sensory discrimination task, so as to allow improvement over time. The results also reveal that the MAA of dogs is more variable than previously reported, potentially reaching values lower than 2°. Although no clear patterns of association emerged between MAA and dogs’ characteristics such as ear shape, head shape or age, the results suggest the value of conducting larger-scale studies to determine whether these or other factors influence sound localization abilities in dogs.

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