PHUKET: Dogs inherited keen senses from their wolf ancestors, and its these attributes that enable them to play such a massive role in our lives. With their phenomenal sense of smell, dogs are being used to sniff out illegal narcotics, explosives – even pirate DVDs.
Their sight and hearing capabilities help to assist the blind or deaf live more independent lives, and their power and strength is invaluable for dogs in an array of services such as water rescue or mountain search and rescue.
A dogs’ world is almost entirely organized by smell and their incredible scent detecting powers are so superior to ours, its almost incomprehensible. Dogs are able to detect scents at such low levels that even computers can’t detect them.
Humans have around five million scent receptor cells in our noses, compared to around 300 million in dogs.
The structure of their noses allows them to breathe in a scent and keep it in their nose – while still managing to breathe in and out.
Dogs noses are also famously wet and with good reason.
Numerous tear ducts run all the way their noses. A wet nose allows them to detect the direction of the wind and thus sniff out scents carried in the breeze.
The moisture also helps them to dissolve scent molecules so receptor cells located in the nose can identify specific odors.
This is why dogs can pick out the tiniest amount of contraband through a host of “decoy” scents such as coffee beans.
Seeing is Believing
A dog’s sense of sight is very different from our own. Our vision is binocular and forward directed, whereas a dog’s is more monocular and peripheral, allowing them to detect the slightest movements, even from behind. In humans, our eyes are located at the front of our heads, giving us a field of vision just over 180 degrees. We have to turn our heads if we want to see things that are to the side, or behind us.
With dogs, the positioning of their eyes on the side of the head gives them a field of vision in the region of 260 degrees. A dogs’s vision in dim light excels, to the point that a dog can see an object at a light threshold six times lower than a human would need to see the same thing.
Dogs are not color blind, but they don’t have as acute a sense of color as we do and find it difficult to differentiate between red and green.
Dogs hear far better than humans.They hear sounds over a greater range of frequencies, from much further away, and can pinpoint the origins of these sounds with exceptional accuracy.
A sound that we hear at 20 meters can be detected by a dog at 200 meters. Dogs also have movable ears, which enables them to localize a sound to a high degree of accuracy and quickly – in about one six hundredth of a second.
There are more than 18 separate muscles in their ears which pivot, tilt, elevate or lower the ear, to ensure that the dog knows where a sound is coming from. Dogs can detect sounds as low as 67 Hz – the equivalent of thunder rumbling in the distance – much the same as we can. However, their high frequency hearing is far superior and extends up to 45,000 Hz, which is ten times higher than a soprano hitting a top C. Such sensitive hearing means that even while dogs are sleeping, they are able to detect sounds that are inaudible to us.
Rather than feeding your dog a bowl of food in the kitchen, hide a number of smaller bowls around the house, and encourage him to use his nose and hunt for his food. Its a fun interactive game to play, to stimulate your dog mentally and physically.
Russell D Russell IACP, ADPT, UKCBC is a professional canine trainer and behavior specialist and can be contacted through the Thailand Canine Academy at firstname.lastname@example.org or tel. 089-588 4050.
— The Dog Whisperer
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