How Do Dogs Experience the World

curious puppy smelling owner's hand

How do dogs understand the world around him?

You won't believe how differently dogs take in the world and better understanding how they perceive the world is going to make you a better trainer. You probably heard that dog see the world in black and white but that's not exactly true.

Dogs can be tested for colorblindness just like people can by being trained to identify objects which are a different color. Using tests like this combined with our knowledge of eye anatomy, we can determine which colors dogs see and which they don't.

Dogs can see blue, yellow, white and gray but red green and yellow all basically look the same to them. Have you ever wondered why dogs get zombie eyes when light shines in their eyes when it's dark or when you take a picture of them in the wild? Dogs are crepuscular hunters they see best in dim light, at dusk, and dawn. Their tapetum lucidum aids this which is what causes the zombie eye effect. 

What does a dog's vision look like?

A dog's vision is about three times blurrier than ours and because of these dogs is much better at recognizing objects when they're moving. When you're playing with your dog for example, if you and the toy are more animated during the process your dog is a lot more likely to be enticed by you and it's easier for dogs to make out individual people from farther away when the person is moving. 

So, if for example, you're trying to get your dog's attention on you from far away, try moving around a little bit and you're a lot more likely to get them to come to you. Sometimes it doesn't work as planned. If you've ever wondered if your dog can see things on TVs or displays, the answer is yes, especially on higher definition televisions.


stratum corneum - outer most layer of a dog's skin

Dog nose facts:

The way dogs really see the world though is with their noses. Dogs can detect scents in shockingly small amounts up to a hundred million times less concentrated than we can with our human noses. Their sense of smell sometimes is so stimulating that it's hard for them to focus on you. That’s why it is so important to get your dog used to all of the smells of the world before you can reasonably expect them to listen to you. 

In the presence of those smells, dogs have a much bigger mental and physical capacity for analyzing and remembering scents than we do. Bottom line, their overall physiology allows them to collect higher concentrations of any given scent. So, when your dog smells the wind they're actually gathering information about things that are happening farther away like maybe a neighbor's dog is approaching for example. 

They also have a special organ in their nose that allows them to detect hormones like pheromones that animals naturally release. And this is fascinating dogs can smell with each nostril independently, in other words, they smell in stereo that combined with wet nose really allows them to detect which direction of smell is coming from. 

Dogs are getting an amazing picture of what goes on in your neighborhood when you allow them to sniff around on a walk. They can even smell the difference between morning and afternoon I mean it's like they can tell time with their nose. So, when you're training your dog, embrace their incredible nose this is one reason that using lure training and good treats can give you an advantage. Be sure to let them have extra time to sniff around next time you're on a walk.


dog with candle flame ears

How far away can a dog hear?

As you probably guessed a dog's ability to hear is vastly superior to ours. In fact, a fully developed dog can hear things up to four times farther away than we can. If your dog has ever gone crazy when you turn on a vacuum it could be because they hear a really high-pitched sound from the motor that our human ears can't detect. And dog's ears can tilt and rotate to really zero in on where a sound is coming from much more efficiently than we can.


a dog have 1700 taste buds

How good is a dog's sense of taste?

Now, as far as taste goes well dogs aren't as sensitive to taste as we are. See they've only got about 1,700 taste buds compared to our 9,000. Interestingly dogs do have one special taste ability though that we don't have. They have taste buds specifically tuned for water. These water taste buds are concentrated on the tip of your dog's tongue, which is the part they use to lap up water. So, dogs can taste, sweet, salty, sour, bitter meat, and fat and it turns out water too.

Dogs may have another very interesting sense, the ability to detect Earth's magnetic fields. Recently a molecule associated with this ability was found in the eyes of dogs. While there's not yet enough definitive evidence to say that dogs can detect magnetic fields, it is the same molecule that's been associated with this ability with other mammals and birds. Plus, a study suggests that dogs may prefer to orient themselves on a north-south axis when they pee and poop.


dog use their whiskers for detecting things on their face

Dog sense of touch

As for touch well dogs, feel touch much like we do but they have special whiskers above their eyes, below their jaw, and on their muzzle. These whiskers are thicker and deeply embedded in their skin and have a huge number of receptor cells attached to them. This helps dogs avoid things that might hit their face or their eyes and just generally helps them be aware of what's on their face. It’s pretty amazing how well dogs and people hit it off and we have so many differences. Thumbs up for dogs everywhere.

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