Canine Senses And How They Work
Ever wondered how your dogs senses work and why they behave in certain ways? Information goes to the dogs brain via it’s senses, and this can govern their behaviour. How strong certain senses are impacts the way in which dogs see the world. For humans we ‘see’ the world, whereas for many dogs they experience the world through smell.
Smell is so crucial for dogs that it can take over other senses such as sight. Dogs have up to 250 million scent receptor cells, whereas humans only have 5 million. Canines have a large part of their brain dedicated to analysing scent, it is 40 times larger than the same area in a human's brain. However, it does depend on the type of breed as to how many scent detecting cells they have. Dogs breeds with longer noses have a stronger sense of smell. This means that the behaviour of some dog breeds such as scent hounds will be more heavily influence by smell. For example, a Bloodhound has 300 million scent receptors, whereas a Daschund only has around 125 million.
Dogs are programmed to seek out different scents, if everything else fails, they will always rely on scent. Dogs use scent for a whole range of purposes, such as recognising their owner, other dogs, figuring out sexual status, following scent trails of animals and determining emotions.
Smells have a big impact on a dogs behaviour with other dogs. Smell helps them to determine a lot about the other dog including things like what gender they are. ‘Dogs use scent to identify individuals and provide information about their sex, health and status’. (Bush, Karen, ‘The Dog Expert’, Expert books, 2010).
Dogs see the world differently to us, they can’t see the fine details of something at a distance and they have a different field of vision. They have a binocular field of vision which means they see a wider picture, this is because of where their eyes are positioned on their head.
Dogs can spot very subtle changes in our posture and the way we move. They can recognise their owners by the way they walk. Dogs are also much better at motion detection than humans, they can see things better when they are moving. So if you are a few hundred metres away from your dog, you call them and they don’t come, try and wave your arms around so they recognise your movement.
Dogs can’t see the same colours as humans either, and this can influence the way they react to things. They see things mainly in yellow and blue, and they can see some purple and grey. This could have an impact on how they react to other dogs, for example dogs can’t see black dogs as well because of the darker shades. It might take them longer to see a black dog and it may be more difficult for them to read body language.
There isn’t a large amount of research on canine hearing, but what we do know is that they can hear much quieter things than us. Dogs often hear things that we can’t hear, and sometimes this makes them appear to be behaving strangely. Dogs need to be desensitised to as many sounds as possible when they are a puppy so that they are not fearful of them when they get older.