Your Dog’s Senses

Ever wonder if your dog interacts with the world differently than you do? Here are some answers.

Just like you, your dog uses his five senses; sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. Your dog may use his senses in very different ways than you, however. Dog senses are tailored to fit their needs, whether it be for hunting, tracking, or any other task that dogs have been used for over the years. This means that dogs have unique capabilities that may surprise you. Here is a rundown of their five senses:

A commonly held preconception about dogs is that they only see in black and white. While this was widely believed for quite some time, it has been found recently that dogs do see in colors, though not as extensively as humans do. Dogs also see with less clarity and detail than humans do, especially in bright light. Dogs do excel, however, in some areas of sight. They have much better night vision than humans and are better at detecting movement. Additionally, many dogs, such as those with eyes placed toward the sides of their skulls, have incredible ranges of vision, sometimes up to 270 degrees. These attributes often help hunting and tracking dogs.

The sense of smell is your dog’s most acutely sharpened sense. Dogs can smell better than humans, and they use it much more widely. Dogs use their noses to distinguish between people, places, foods, and prey. Hunting and tracking dogs can identify animals from far away even without seeing them, just based on their smell. As you may know, this skill comes in handy for humans, as a dog's sense of smell is often used for the following purposes:

  • Track Animals
  • Track or find humans
  • Find narcotics or drugs
  • Detect poisonous gases

Besides the sense of smell, the best canine sense is usually hearing. Dogs can hear sounds in much greater ranges - both pitch and volume, and are capable of hearing and pinpointing sounds at a much farther distance. In addition, dogs can use the muscles in their ears to aim them at the source of sound, making their hearing even more efficient.

Dogs do not have as many taste buds or as well-developed a sense of taste as humans, but this is partially made up for by their keen sense of smell. Nevertheless, dogs aren’t too picky about what they eat, as you may well already know.

Not much is known about the specifics of the canine sense of touch, but it does seem to be a well-developed sense. Dogs often use touch to communicate and play, and can feel temperature just as well as we can. One way you can see your dog’s sense of touch in action is watching his delight as you pet him!