Just like humans, dogs too have a multitude of senses – smell, sight, hearing, touch, and taste. Both use their senses to perceive and respond to stimuli originated from the environment. However, human and dog senses differ from each other in the way they are used. Dogs rely heavily on their senses. They also have a “sixth” sense – dogs can feel the energy and emotions of the other beings around them.
Dog use their senses primarily as a means to communicate, whether by smelling, seeing, and hearing. However, the strength of each sense may vary from one dog breed to another. Hounds, such as Bloodhounds, Dachshunds, Otterhounds, and others, have stronger noses than Pugs, Shih Tzus, and Pekingese. Azawakh, Scottish Deerhound, and Borzoi dogs have better vision than other dog breeds. The sniffing prowess of Golden Retrievers outmatches most other dogs.
Now, let us analyze different dog senses and how a dog uses each of them to experience and enjoy life.
Dog’s Sense of Smell
Generally, the olfaction sense (smell) is the strongest of all dog senses. A dog gets to know and understands the world predominantly by smell. For humans, the principal sense is the ability to see. However, the sense of smell of a dog is so powerful that he can even live without eyesight. This is the reason a blind or deaf dog can still live life to the fullest.
A dog’s brain may be only 1/10 the size of a human brain, but the part that controls smell is 40 times larger than that of humans.
In fact, a dog nose is about 1,000 to 10,000,000 times more sensitive than a human’s. Depending on the breed, a dog has 125 million to 300 million scent glands compared to a measly 5 million in humans.
Animal psychologists and experts agree that dog senses help to even smell things invisible to the eye. They can easily detect a huge assortment of hormones given off by humans and other animals. Dogs can determine whether a creature is a friend or foe, or perhaps a potential mate using their sense of smell. This unique ability of dogs can help in detecting disease, pregnancy, anxiety, and much more and benefit humans.
You may wonder why dogs have wet noses. The liquid on a dog’s nose is actually mucus that helps the dog smell by capturing scent particles. If the nose gets dry, your dog may lick it to reinforce his ability to search any scent.
What is even more amazing is the fact that when dogs smell something, they do not merely register the smell. Dogs are also able to find out the entire happening behind the smell. Because of their powerful noses, dogs can smell pheromones, which are found in the urine, stool, skin, and even fur. Just by smelling, dogs can tell a lot about another dog, human, or creature, such as
- their sex
- places they have been
- food they have eaten
- things they have touched
- if they are in heat or ready to mate
- if they have given birth recently or had a false pregnancy
- the emotion they experienced at the time
In addition to these things, their sense of smell, which is the most powerful among dog senses, is used to
- detect cancer in people
- sniff out bombs, drugs, and illegal substances
- protect wildlife by sniffing firearms and ammunitions
- detect illegal fishing
- search and rescue missing people and animals
All these show that when a dog smells another dog, human, creature, or object, they can actually interpret the entire story underlying the scent and not merely smelling out something interesting.
A dog’s nostrils are also special and he can move them independently. This allows dogs to determine the direction a scent is coming from.
Canine noses have two different functions – breathing and sniffing. They behave differently when performing these though you may not have noticed the distinction. When a dog sniffs, he has short breath. That is because they are saving some of the scents and temporarily prevent it from being exhaled.
On the other hand, when a dog is actively panting, his sense of smell is reduced by up to 40 percent. The reason is that the dog is using the air to cool his or her body instead of sniffing and investigating.
One fascinating, little-known fact is that a newborn puppy has heat sensors in his nose. It helps him to find out the mother dog even if he cannot see or hear clearly. These amazing sensors disappear as they grow up.
Another interesting fact is that dogs breathe in through one nostril and breathe out through the other. Because of this, dogs are always bringing in olfactory information. The information they gather with their nose is sifted and sorted by millions of olfactory sensors in the sensory system. The olfactory hub in the dog’s brains receives enormous amounts of data from these sensors.
Dog’s Sense of Sight
Dogs cannot speak. They do not have a language to speak or understand, and this causes their thoughts to follow more like a sequence of images. This is comparable to how a young child perceives things before he learns to use the language.
The eyes are one of the most important dog senses and facilitate a dog to visually interpret his surroundings. Most people think dogs cannot see colors and their vision is limited to black and white images. However, that is not exactly true. In fact, studies have shown that dogs see and detect various shades of blue and yellow colors.
A research paper on dogs claims that dogs have two types of cones in their eyes. This led the scientists at the Institute for Information Transmission Problems at the Russia Academy of Sciences to believe dogs could distinguish colors – and they were right.
When a dog sees a rainbow, he sees dark blue, light blue, light gray, light yellow, dark brownish yellow, and dark gray instead of ROYGBIV that humans can view. For dogs, the color display may result in the following.
- Dogs can spot both purple and blue as shades of the blue color
- They can view greenish-blue as gray
- For them, red looks as black or dark gray
- Orange, yellow, and green are visualized as shades of yellow
In short, humans see colors along the spectrum created by red, yellow, and blue. Dogs, on the other hand, only see within the spectrum of yellow and blue. For dogs, bright orange objects, such as carrots or oranges are the same yellowish shade as green grass.
So if you want your dog to find toys in the green grass more easily, getting blue toys for him is a good idea. But it may not matter anyway, since your dog will be able to find his toy with his sense of smell anyway.
Another big difference between a dog and a man is that dogs can see best at dusk and dawn. A dog’s overall vision may not be better than a man, but his eyes are adapted to the low-light vision and more capable of seeing in dim lights.
Perfect vision for humans is 20/20 while an average dog’s vision is 20/75. At a distance, dogs cannot see as good as humans.
Aside from that, humans can also see things close up better than a dog can. An average human can see something clearly as close as 7 cm away. Things become blurry for dogs if they are less than 33 cm away.
On the other hand, dogs can recognize things better when they are moving. This is why their prey drive often surfaces and they dash on a wild chase when they see other running animals.
Dogs can also see images on a TV screen, but they battle to figure out what the images are. On older televisions, dogs see a rapidly flickering light in the picture. The reason behind this is that most televisions show pictures in accordance with a human’s flicker resolution ability, which is about 55 Hz. A dog’s is about 75 Hz.
With HD and increased frame rates shown on TVs nowadays, dogs can now watch television shows. In fact, there are channels that are dedicated for dogs.
Dog’s Sense of Hearing
Dogs have a very acute sense of hearing. Their ears are significantly more effective than humans making this another remarkable attribute of dog senses.
Studies have shown that dogs are capable of perceiving sound frequencies twice more than an average person can. Depending on their breed, dogs can detect sounds in the frequency range of approximately 67 – 45,000 Hz. That is a lot higher than humans who have only an approximate range of hearing around 64 – 23,000 Hz.
Their ability to pick and distinguish distant sounds is also fourfold higher than humans. You may not know that puppies are born deaf with closed eyes. Therefore, they have no sense of hearing or sight. They solely rely on their noses until they are 21 days old. Once their ears develop, they can hear sounds from a distance four times higher than a man with normal hearing can do.
Dogs can also hear higher pitched sounds that humans cannot hear. This is the reason why they often bark whenever there is any loud sound at an annoying pitch.
Dogs also hear a wider range of frequencies. In January 2016, musician Laurie Anderson held a concert that only dogs could hear. Their owners had to wear a special helmet to hear the beautiful sounds.
Dogs have 18 or more muscles in their ears that allow them to move their ears more effectively. Some canine breeds with naturally perked ears, such as Australian Terriers, German Shepherds, and Siberian Huskies, usually hear better than dogs with floppy ears.
Dog’s Sense of Taste
Your pet’s sense of taste is the least developed among dog senses. It may be a bit hard to believe because many dogs have incredible, insatiable appetites. A dog’s sense of taste is closely connected to his sense of smell.
The dog’s sense of taste is comparable to humans. However, there is one main difference between humans and dogs – humans cannot eat something smelling foul. But dogs are on the opposite side and live by the words “the smellier, the better!”
Another big difference between a dog and human’s sense of taste is that the humans taste something before deciding whether they like it or not. Dogs, on the other hand, frequently just swallow the food – they gulp it down with little discernment. The reason for this that dogs have fewer taste buds than humans. Humans have about 9,000 taste buds, while dogs only have around 2,000.
In general, dogs do not care too much about the taste. They are far more concerned with the smell.
Dogs can recognize the following tastes.
Just like in humans, dogs also do not really prefer bitter things. That is the reason why some taste deterrents – products that are used to stop puppies from chewing – have a bitter apple flavor.
Dog’s Sense of Touch
Among the five dog senses, the sense of touch is the first to develop in dogs.
During the first few minutes of their birth, the mother dog licks and cleans her puppies. This process touches all the nerve endings in their bodies leading to an increase in the blood flow.
A dog’s sense of touch also plays a vital role in his socialization process. Interactions that involve touching helps the dog forge a bond with other individuals. Your dog’s muzzle is similar to human hands as far as his interaction and socialization are concerned. He interacts with everything and everyone using this part of the body.
Dogs also receive messages through their sense of touch. Their owners – and even other dogs – can correct a naughty pup with just a firm touch. In fact, this method is considered one of the most effective ways to train and get your dog to understand when he has done something wrong.
While a dog’s limbs and paws are primarily devoted to walking or running, his muzzle serves many purposes, including helping them learn and understand the world. A dog’s entire body, including the paws, is also covered with nerve endings that are touch-sensitive.
Dog’s Energy Sensor: The Sixth Sense
A dog has an amazing sixth sense – his ability to feel the energy and emotions of the others around him. If we break it down into simple science, the kinetic energy a dog is able to sense might just be a frequency. After all, light, sound, and heat have different frequencies and this allows the dog to feel them because of its enhanced ability to smell and hear.
When your dog senses that you are feeling anxious or threatened, he is most likely jump to your aid. Dogs can sense fear, happiness, and other emotions. It is believed that dogs can smell your pheromones, a chemical substance released from the body, and perhaps even feel them radiating from your body. Some dogs can even detect seizures in humans before they happen.
Dogs read human emotions such as anxiety, worry, fear, anger, pity, and nervousness as signs of weakness. When a dog senses that you are feeling one or some of these emotions, they are not likely to listen to your command.
Dogs listen best to a person who is calm and firm. They know who to listen to because they use their sense of energy to determine who should be the pack leader. One with the strongest and most stable energy is the one they look up to and listen to. You may hide your emotions from a human, but you can never hide them from your dog.