Human and dog senses do have their similarities, but vast differences too. Just like humans, there are five dog senses: smell, sight, hearing, touch and taste. The major difference between dog senses and human senses lies in the way they are used.
Dogs rely heavily on their senses. Dog senses are primarily used by our furry pals as a means to communicate, whether by smelling, seeing and hearing. Dogs also have an additional sense – it’s a universal sense or 6th sense – dogs can feel the energy and emotions of the other beings around them.
Of course, the strength of each sense may vary between different dog breeds. Hounds such as Bloodhounds, Dachshunds, Otterhounds and more have stronger noses than Pugs, Shih Tzus, and Pekingese. Sight hounds like the Azawakh, Scottish Deerhound, and Borzoi have better vision than other dog breeds.
Now, let’s get to know the different dog senses.
Dog’s sense of smell
Photo: Caroline Quiara/Facebook
Generally, the nose is strongest of the dog senses. A dog gets to know and understand the world predominantly by smell. For humans the predominant sense is sight. 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 in humans.
Related: Why Are Dog Noses Wet?
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.
According to Psychology professor Alexandra Horowitz, dogs can smell things that cannot be seen. Dogs can detect a huge assortment of hormones given off by humans and other animals. This information serves both dogs and mankind. For dogs, they can determine whether a creature is a friend or foe, or perhaps a potential mate. For man, they detect disease, pregnancy, anxiety and so much more.
You may wonder why dogs have wet noses. The liquid on a dog’s nose is actually mucus which helps the dog smell by capturing scent particles. When the nose gets dry, your dog may lick it to help with scent searching.
What’s even more amazing is the fact that when dogs smell something, they don’t merelyregister the smell. Dogs also understand the entire story 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 including:
- Their sex,
- Places they have been,
- Food they’ve eaten,
- Things they’ve touched,
- If they are in heat or ready to mate,
- If they have given birth recently or had a false pregnancy,
- And the emotion they experienced at the time.
In addition to these things, their noses – which is the most powerful among dog senses – have even been known to:
- Detect cancer in people,
- Sniff out bombs, drugs and illegal substances,
- Protect wildlife by sniffing firearms and ammunitions,
- Detect illegal fishing,
- Search for missing people and animals,
- And a lot more.
All these show that when a dog smells another dog, human, creature, or object, they are actually interpreting the entire story and not merely smelling an interesting scent.
A dog’s nostrils are also special. Dogs can move their nostrils independently. This allows them to determine the direction a scent is coming from.
Canine noses have two different functions: for breathing and for sniffing. You may not have noticed the difference, but dog when dogs sniff their breath is short. That’s because they are saving some of the scent and temporarily prevent it from being exhaled.
On the other hand, when a dog overheats and is actively panting, his sense of smell is reduced by as much as 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 newborn puppies have heat sensors in their noses that help them find their mother when their eyes and ears are still closed. These amazing sensors disappear as they grow up.
Another interesting fact is that dogs breathe in through one nostril and 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. The olfactory bulb in the dog’s brains receives enormous amounts of data from the sensors.
Dog’s sense of sight
Dogs cannot speak. They do not have spoken language and because of this their thoughts are more like a sequence of images. This is comparable to a young child before they learn to speak.
The eyes are one of the most important dog senses an allow the dog to visually interpret his surroundings.
Most people think dogs see only in black and white, but that is not exactly true. In fact, studies have shown that dogs see and detect various shades of blue and yellow.
Dog research published in 2013 found that dogs have two types of cones in their eyes. This led the scientists at the Institute for Information Transmission Problems of the Russia Academy of Sciences to suspect dogs could distinguish colors – and they were right.
When a dog sees a rainbow, he or she sees dark blue, light blue, light gray, light yellow, dark brownish yellow, and dark gray instead of ROYGBIV that humans see. For dogs:
- Purple and blue are both seen as shades of blue,
- Greenish-blue is viewed as a shade of gray,
- The color red is seen as a black or dark gray,
- Orange, yellow and green are various 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 like carrots or oranges are the same yellowish shade as green grass.
So if you want your dog to find toys in green grass more easily, getting blue toys is a good idea. But it may not matter anyway, since your dog will be able to find his toy with his nose anyway.
Another big difference between dog and human sight is that dogs can see best at dusk and dawn. A dog’s overall vision may not be better, their eyes have low-light vision that is much better than a human’s.
Perfect vision for humans is 20/20 while an average dog’s vision is 20/75. At a distance, dogs cannot see as well as humans with normal eyes.
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 closer than 33 cm away.
On the other hand, dogs can recognize things better when they are moving. This is why their prey drive is often triggered 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. This is another remarkable dog sense and a dog’s ears are significantly more effective than a human’s.
Studies have shown that dogs are capable of perceiving frequencies of about twice that of a human. They can also pick and distinguish sounds roughly four times better than humans.
You may not know that puppies are born deaf with closed eyes, so have no sense of hearing or sight. They solely rely on their noses until they are 21 days-old. By the time their ears are completely developed, they can hear sounds at about 4 times the distance a human who has normal hearing can hear.
Dogs can also hear higher pitched sounds that humans cannot hear. This is the reason they often bark at vacuums because the cleaning machine’s sound is loud and at an annoying pitch.
Depending on their breed, dogs can detect sounds in the frequency range of approximately 67 – 45,000 Hz. That’s a lot higher than humans with only an approximate range of 64 – 23,000 Hz.
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 allows them to move their ears. Dogs with naturally perked ears like as German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, Australian Terriers and more usually hear better than dogs with floppy ears.
Dog’s sense of taste
A dog’s sense of taste is the least developed dog sense. It may be a bit hard to believe because many dogs have incredibly, insatiable appetites. A dog’s sense of taste is closely connected to another of the five dog senses: the sense of smell.
The dog’s sense of taste is comparable to humans, but there is one main difference between humans and dogs – we won’t eat something that smells bad. Dogs are the total opposite 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 will 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 dog’s only develop about 2,000.
In general, dogs do not care too much about a food or object’s taste. They are far more concerned with the smell.
Dogs can recognize the following tastes:
- And bitter.
And just like in some humans, dogs do not really like bitter things. That’s the reason why some taste deterrents – products that are used to stop puppies from chewing – have a bitter apple flavor.
Since dogs will chow down anything that smells nice, owners need to keep an eye on what their dogs put in their mouths.
Dog’s sense of touch
Among the five dog senses, the sense of touch is the first to develop in dogs.
During the first minutes outside of their mother’s womb, their mom cleans and licks them. This process touches all the nerve endings in their bodies to get the blood flow pumping.
A dog’s sense of touch has also played a vital role in their socialization with humans and even other animals. Interactions that involve touching helps the dog forge a bond with other individuals.
Dog muzzles are equivalent to human hands when it comes interaction and socialization. Dogs interact with everything and everyone using this part of the body
Dogs also receive messages just by their sense of touch. Their owners – and even other dogs – can correct a naughty pup with just a stern touch, especially on the nose. In fact, this method is considered one of the most effective ways to train and get your dog to understand when he or she has done something wrong.
While a dog’s limbs and paws are used for travel, their muzzle has many purposes including helping them learn and understand the world.
One thing dog owners may not know is that we usually pet dogs in the least sensitive part of their body – the base of the neck. That part is not really very sensitive so when you train your dog, you need to make sure that the collar is higher up on the neck to allow for a better training session.
A dog’s entire body – including the paws – is also covered with nerve endings that are touch-sensitive.
Dog’s energy sensor
Among dog senses, a dog’s energy sensor is something really special – it’s an amazing 6th dog sense.
If we break it down into simple science, the kinetic energy a dog senses might just be a frequency. After all, light, sound and heat are all frequencies, and energy is actually a universal animal language.
When your dog senses that you’re feeling anxious or threatened, he will most likely jump to your aid. Dogs can sense fear, happiness, and other emotions. It is believed that dogs can smell your pheromones 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’re feeling one or some of these emotions, they will not likely listen to your command.
Dogs listen best to a person who is calm and firm. Dogs know who to listen to because they use their sense of energy to determine who should be the pack leader. The alpha dog or a human 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.