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How Your Dog Uses Their Senses 

Written by Ella White


beautiful basset hound

Dogs rely heavily on their five senses to navigate and understand the world around them. Each sense serves a unique purpose and provides dogs with valuable information that they use to make sense of their environment.

Understanding how dogs use their senses is important for their well-being, as it helps us communicate with them effectively and keep them safe. In this article, we’ll look at each of a dogs’ five senses, how they use them day to day, and how they compare to our human senses.

Dogs’ Sense of Smell

close up dog nose

A dog's sense of smell is incredibly powerful and is considered to be one of their most important senses. In fact, it is estimated that a dog's sense of smell is anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times more powerful than that of humans. This is because dogs have many more olfactory receptors in their noses than humans do, which allows them to detect even the faintest of scents.

Dogs use their sense of smell in many different ways in their daily lives. One of the most important uses is for identification. Dogs are able to identify people and other animals by their scent, and can even track someone by following their scent trail. This is why dogs are often used by law enforcement agencies to track down suspects or locate missing people.

Dogs also use their sense of smell to detect certain diseases or medical conditions, such as cancer/learn/dog-health/can-dogs-smell-diseases-like-cancer-in-humans or diabetes. They can even detect changes in a person's body odor that are associated with a seizure or other medical emergency, and alert their owners or caregivers.Which Dogs Have The Best Sense Of Smell?

The Bloodhound/learn/dog-training/what-are-hound-dogs is often considered to have the most powerful sense of smell of any dog breed, and is frequently used for tracking and search and rescue missions. Other dogs with exceptional sense of smell include the German Shepherd/learn/dog-lifestyle/the-5-smartest-dog-breeds#:~:text=similarly%20active%20families.-,3.%20German%20Shepherds,-There%E2%80%99s%20a%20reason, Labrador Retriever/learn/dog-lifestyle/10-reasons-labradors-make-the-best-family-dogs, and Beagle/learn/dog-lifestyle/beagle-traits-what-you-need-to-know, all of which are commonly used for detection work such as sniffing out drugs or explosives.

Dogs’ Sense of Sight

A dog's sense of sight is not as powerful as their sense of smell, but it is still an important sense that they rely on in their day-to-day lives. Compared to humans, dogs have a wider field of vision, but their visual acuity and color vision is not as sharp as ours. Dogs also have a reflective layer behind their retinas called the tapetum lucidum, which helps them see better in low light conditions/learn/dog-health/do-dogs-have-good-eyesight.

Dogs rely on their sight for navigation, hunting, and playing. But they are able to detect movement much better than humans, and can track moving objects with ease. They also use their sight to communicate with other dogs, using body language and visual cues much like we do.

Which Dogs Have The Best Sight?

Greyhounds/learn/dog-lifestyle/your-guide-to-sighthounds are known for their exceptional vision and are often used for racing because of their ability to track a moving object with precision. The German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois/learn/dog-lifestyle/the-american-kennel-clubs-rising-dog-breeds#:~:text=equally%20active%20families.-,Belgian%20Malinois%C2%A0,-Ranking%20at%20%2336 are often used for police and military work thanks to their strong visual acuity.

Other breeds that have exceptional sight include the Saluki, which is known for its ability to track prey in the desert, and the Australian Shepherd, which is a skilled herding dog that uses its sight to keep livestock in line. 

Dogs’ Sense of Hearing

huge German shepherd ears

A dog's sense of hearing is much more powerful than that of humans. While humans can typically hear sounds in the range of 20-20,000 Hz, dogs can hear sounds up to 65,000 Hz. Dogs also have the ability to hear sounds from much farther away than humans, and can distinguish between different types of sounds with greater accuracy.

Dogs use their sense of hearing to communicate with other dogs through barking, growling, and whining. They also rely on their hearing to detect potential danger, such as approaching strangers or animals. Their impressive hearing also means dogs are used for search and rescue missions where their ability to hear faint sounds can be crucial in locating missing people.

Which Dogs Have The Best Hearing?

Bloodhounds use their hearing in combination with their sense of smell for tracking. The German Shepherd is also known for its acute hearing and is often used as a police or military dog.

Other breeds that have exceptional hearing include the Beagle, which is often used for hunting, and the Dalmatian, which has the ability to hear sounds from far away and is often used as a watchdog. 

Dogs’ Sense of Taste

doggo mouth close up

A dog's sense of taste is not as strong as their sense of smell or hearing and, compared to humans, dogs have fewer taste buds and are not able to taste certain flavors as strongly as we can. For example, dogs have a weaker sense of sweetness, but have a stronger sense of saltiness and bitterness.

Dogs use their sense of taste to determine what is safe to eat and what is not. They are also able to detect subtle differences in the taste of their food, which can help them to identify different types of food and differentiate between foods that they like and those that they don’t in the same way that we do.

Which Dogs Have The Best Sense Of Taste?

Some dogs may have a keener sense of taste than others, though this tends to vary by individual rather than by breed. For example, dogs that have been trained to detect certain scents or substances may also have a heightened sense of taste in order to better detect these substances. 

Sense of Touch

bichon frise asking for belly rubs

A dog's sense of touch is highly developed, and in some ways, more advanced than a human's. Dogs have many more sensory receptors in their skin than we do, which allows them to sense even the slightest changes in their environment. They also have sensitive whiskers on their face, which they use to navigate and explore their surroundings.

Dogs use their sense of touch to feel the texture and temperature of objects they encounter, which helps them to identify food, water, and other objects that they need. They also use their sense of touch to communicate with other dogs, using their bodies to convey messages of playfulness, aggression, or submission.

Do Some Dogs Have A Better Sense Of Touch?

Some dogs may have a better sense of touch than others, depending on their breed and training. For example, dogs that are trained to assist people with disabilities, such as guide dogs/learn/dog-lifestyle/everything-you-need-to-know-about-seeing-eye-dogs, often have highly developed senses of touch, which allows them to better understand and anticipate their owner's needs. Some breeds, such as the Dachshund/learn/dog-lifestyle/is-a-dachshund-the-right-dog-for-you, have long, sensitive bodies and are known for their ability to detect vibrations and subtle movements in their environment.

Overall, a dog's sense of touch is a crucial part of their sensory experience, and plays an important role in their daily lives. By using their sense of touch in conjunction with their other senses, dogs are able to navigate their environment, communicate with other dogs, and better understand the world around them.