Understanding what drives your dog’s behaviour will help you understand your four-legged best friend a little better…
Posted: 22 January 2017
A dog has more than 220 million olfactory receptors in its nose, while humans have only a measly 5 million. And, unlike humans, dogs smell ‘in stereo’ – that is, they smell separately with each nostril, which helps them work out exactly where interesting whiffs are coming from. By using their incredible sense of smell – scientists suggest it’s 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute as a human’s – your dog can find out lots of information about where you’ve been and who you’ve been with, which is why having a good sniff is a very important part of how they greet you.
You’re enjoying a peaceful snooze with your pet when suddenly he lets out a sharp bark that makes you jump out of your skin. You might not be able to hear anything, but your dog has and it’s his job to alert you to it! The ears of dogs are controlled by up to 18 muscles, while humans are equipped with only six, enabling canines to tilt and rotate them to funnel sounds into the inner ear more efficiently. Dogs can also hear sounds from four times further away than humans, and locate the source of the sound in 1/600th of a second. So, don’t tell him to ‘be quiet’, just say ‘thank you’ and reassure him that you appreciate his vigilance but everything is fine.
Ever wondered why your dog doesn’t always recognise you from a distance? Try moving instead of standing still. From 300 metres away, a person is almost invisible to a dog as canines cannot see as well at a distance as humans. However, dogs can recognise objects better when they are in motion as they have highly-tuned ‘hunter’ vision. The retinas in a dog’s eyes have lots of light-and-motion sensitive cells called rods, which enable them to focus on moving prey.
Most dogs beg and will do anything for a treat, but their affection for humans goes way beyond their love of food. Research on brain scans from Emory University in Atlanta, USA, reveals that a dog’s affection comes from the same part of the brain as in humans. The scientists found that when dogs (specially trained to lie still in an MRI machine) could smell their owner’s aroma, it sparked activation in the ‘reward centre’ of their brains – and they prioritised the smell of humans over anything else – even food. This proves what owners have always suspected – it’s not just cupboard love!
When your dog stares at you, she is communicating in a way reserved just for her human. Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest found that dogs are the only non-primate animal to look people in the eyes. This is a unique behaviour between dogs and humans — dogs seek out eye contact from people, but not their biological dog parents.
If you have a male dog, have you ever wondered why they lift their legs to urinate as high as possible on a tree or lamppost? One explanation is that they want to show they are tall to intimidate rival dogs. In Africa, it’s said that some wild dogs run up trees while urinating to make it seem they are very tall indeed!
Does your dog like to follow you around and be involved in everything you do? Scientists have observed that dogs interact with their human caregivers in the same way babies do with their parents. When dogs are scared or worried, they run to their owners, just as tearful toddlers make a beeline for mum or dad. This is in stark contrast to other domesticated animals – petrified cats, as well as horses, will run away. Laurie Santos, the lead researcher at Yale’s Canine Cognition Centre, says: “Dogs are seeking out help from us — and that’s true based on studies — which is different from even their closest relatives, wolves.” It turns out that dogs rely on humans more than they do their own kind for affection, protection and everything in between – something that dog lovers will tell you works both ways!
Sources: aces.edu/ huffingtonpost.com/headstuff.org/ animalplanet.com/ emory.edu/ mic.com/ extraamazingfacts.blogspot.co.uk