Understanding how the five senses work in your dog
An amazing video on deaf dogs
The five senses. They are the most important,yet seemingly trivial parts of our existence which we take too often for granted. If we stop to think about the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell, we will not be able to imagine our lives without them.
As they are to us, the 5 senses are vital to a dog’s survival. This writer will go in to a little detail about how they work in our canine friends and hopefully clear up some misconceptions. I will explain how a dog’s 5 senses can be used to train them and be of help to us too.
The 5 senses in our dogs
Yes, these 5 senses certainly play major roles in the lives of our dogs. One or two of them, though, do have a greater impact on their lives than others. Having said that, it is not hard to figure out what they would be!
The sense of smell in our dogs
The sense of smell would,by far, play the most important role in the lives of our dogs. We cannot even come close to our dogs’ ability to smell things. A dog has about 40,000 olfactory receptors, giving him a sense of smell 100,000 times more powerful than a human’s. Though the design of a dog’s snout varies from breed to breed, they all have the same great sniffing power.
A dog’s olfactory tube (the part of the brain responsible for detecting scent messages) is substantially larger than that of a human’s. They have an organ within their nose called the vomeronasal organ that is used to detect chemical signals from animals and people. This is why you might find your dog greeting another by smelling it. It also explains why a dog can be entranced by a singular spot of grass for 10 minutes!
Fun fact: the bloodhound has 3 times more scent receptors than any other dog breed. The unique physical design of the nose makes it a good tracker or sniffer dog.
The sense of hearing and our dogs
We are all too familiar with our canine friends barking like crazy in the middle of the night. He may be detecting a noise that you cannot hear, like a burglar breaking in via your basement window.
The sense of hearing is another dominating sense in our canines. Dogs can hear at 4 times the distance a human can. Putting it a little musically, they can hear at 2 higher octaves than humans, listening mainly in the ultrasound range, at a frequency of about 60 000 hertz. They are able to localize sounds with more facility than humans.
The sense of touch in our dogs
Though not as developed as the other two senses, a dog’s sense of touch is also very well-honeed, though less so than a human’s. Puppies, though born blind, are compensated with sensory receptors on their faces that help them find mama. Likeall social animals, dogs use touch to bond and get to know others better.
While the most sensitive part of the human body are the fingertips, it would be the muzzle for the dog. Understanding how the sense of touch works in training a dog will be explained later.
The sense of taste
A dog’s sense of taste is arguably less developed than a human’s. Most owners will notice that dogs eat just about anything (yes, some are still choosy). While a human has about 9000 taste detectors in his tongue, a dog has about 2000. Considered neophilic,many dogs are not fussy and would be inclined to try new tastes.
Dogs can differentiate between the salty, sour, spicy and bitter tastes in the same way we can. Some dogs really enjoy strong flavors!
The sense of sight
By far the least developed of a dog’s five senses, dogs, unlike what is popularly believed, can distinguish between a few colors, though more limited in number that we can.
The lessened range of color vision in dogs has its purpose. Primarily hunters, dogs survived in the wild or used to help owners trap vermin, possibly at night. The lack of colors enhance a dog’s night vision. Scientists have found that a dog’s vision sharpens greatly at night with fewer colors.
How to use the 5 senses to train your dog
A dog’s senses can be used to guide him into behaving in an appropriate manner, or even to help us. Each of them can be a useful teaching tool!
Using a dog’s sense of sight
A dog’s sense of sight can be used to distract him and guide him into the right behavior. The things that a dog sees can be used to distract him when he is about to engage in anything that might be a little out of line.
Take for example, meeting a stranger on a walk. Social animals, some dogs might be rather jumpy and want to greet him viz a little pounce (yes, dogs do what they doggy do).
Making use of, say, a light nearby, the dog can be guided away from frightening that stranger with a jump.
Using a dog’s sense of touch
One of my favorite ways to use touch to train a dog is in using your legs to indicate undesirable behavior.
When on a walk, the legs can be used to alert a dog when he is being unruly or doing anything inappropriate. Touch the legs to a dog’s sides or rear end. This should tell him that he is doing something not quite right and correct the behavior straight away.
Sometimes, a dog might greet you a little too enthusiastically when you come home. Again, practicing a little calm assertiveness, use your legs to gently touch the dog to get him or her to calm down.
Using a dog’s sense of smell
A dog’s sense of smell can be used to teach him to go to the right places for the right things.
An owner can use the sense of smell to teach a dog to come to you. Have some treats on you and a dog will usually come right on over to look for them. Gradually get him to associate it with the word “come.”
Many owners, of course, use a dog’s sense of smell to house break a puppy. Use his own scent to guide him to the right place to use the bathroom. Bring him to the spot frequently where he should go to the bathroom and let him recognize that this is the place for him to ease himself.
Using the sense of taste
Every time we extend a treat, we can utilize our dog's sense of taste to teach him. It works, together with his sense of smell, to get him to come to you at the right time.
Bear in mind that we do not want to be over treating our dog. Use the smell of the treat on your fingertips to help him slowly associate him with the desired action.
Using a dog’s sense of hearing
Dogs. with their incredible sense of hearing, are easily distracted by the great number of sounds they hear around them.
Using a clicker or snapping your fingers can help draw the dog’s attention to what to do next, whether it is to sit, come or heel. It serves as a reminder to adopt appropriate behaviors.
How a dog’s senses can help us
A dog’s sense of hearing can be used to help us in our daily lives, and our loyal canine friends are ever ready to provide the assistance we need.
How a dog’s sense of smell can help us
As we have already mentioned, smell can help you housebreak a dog. It can help guide the dogs to appropriate behaviors as well.
Aside from that, dogs have been used in areas of rather difficult work. Cadaver dogs detect the scent of humans buried under rubble. Fire dogs are used to detect the presence of humans at the scenes of fires and the dog on border patrol sniffs out illegal drugs.
My favorite is how some highly trained dogs are used to detect cancer. Some dogs are able to differentiate between two cells and indicate which is cancerous. They are used quite often in areas of cancer research.
How a dog’s sense of hearing serves us
As mentioned before, with 3 times our hearing capacity, a dog can hear what we cannot. It can hear someone walking about the house at night and serve as a watch dog.
I have not yet repaired my doorbell nor need to, because my dog Cloudy will always come to me when someone is at the door. Many times, she has heard our footsteps-all the way from across the park!
Indeed, a dog’s senses serve it, and us, in many ways. Use them to guide him into knowing what to do, and hence form a better relationship with you.