YOUR DOG'S SENSES
Click on these links for in depth information
about each of these dogs senses
One of the most misunderstood aspects of a dog's life is their reliance on their senses. They use them to analyse the environment around them and make split-second assessments as to what type of behaviour is the most appropriate (see Memory). By understanding how dogs depend upon and use their senses we can develop a deeper understanding of how to train and motivate our pet, how to fulfill its working instincts, and how to prevent or change behaviour that we find undesirable.
There are some key points to remember when comparing how one dog uses its senses to that of another.
For example, over hundreds and even thousands of years Man has deliberately bred certain types of dog to use some senses more than others in order to do a specific task -
- In the vast plains of the Middle East ancient hunters chose and
bred athletic sprinting dogs that were able to detect the movement
of prey over long distances - these became sight hounds.
- Meanwhile, in the more wooded and hilly terrain of Europe where
prey could hide from the hunting dog's sight, ancient hunters bred
dogs with particularly good sense of smell to detect animal scents
in the wind, or follow their tracks along the ground, to lead the
hunters to their prey - these became scent hounds.
- Flushing dogs were bred to
have vast amounts of physical stamina and good senses of movement
sight and smell so that they could be sent into the undergrowth to
scare the prey out of their hiding places. The hunter could then
see the prey and kill it by sling, spear, arrow, and as technology
advanced by shooting the prey with a gun. Unlike the scent and
sight hounds, these dogs were bred to have very poor levels of
concentration so that they would not chase the first animal they
saw, or follow only one scent, but "spot scent" and cover large areas of
ground in fast erratic movements so as to disturb as many birds and
animals as possible.
- Retrieving dogs have been bred to have very sensitive mouths, and have an extremely strong instinct to touch, taste, smell and carry all manner of things in their mouths. These sensory traits have been specifically enhanced by selective breeding so that the dogs will pick up and carry prey that the hunter has shot after the flushing dogs have done their work.
STRESS EFFECTS DOGS SENSES
The dog's level of stress is another important aspect to remember when considering their senses. If a dog is overexcited or stressed its senses will be far more heightened and reactive than it would be if it was calm and relaxed. This is because Nature raises an animal's alertness to danger when its adrenaline levels are high. Stress also effects dogs ability to concentrate and assess the senses information correctly.
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