In the dog world not much has been going on the past week (though I have heard that there is very much going on in the human world….and I am glad Caryn keeps things calm and dog-focused for me!). So this week I decided to do a little research and figure out why Caryn never seems to want to sniff the ground like I do when we go on walks in the woods. I am super interested in all the smells around me, while she seems more interested in looking at things. So, time to figure this out. What I found out is pretty cool.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It turns out I have a superpower, and it’s my nose. It’s my way of understanding the world. My sense of smell is much more developed than humans. For example, people have 5 million receptors that sense smell. I know that sounds like a lot, but I read on the internet that dogs have 300 million! Poor humans are missing out, I think. Now maybe you can understand why I get so excited when you bring out the peanut butter jar – from the other end of the house?
My nose is structured in a special way. Check this out:
Can you see the big opening in the front, shaped like an “O”? And little opening that goes up the side of my nose? The front of my nose is where I inhale. The side is where I exhale. By exhaling through the sides of my nose, I don’t dilute the aroma that is right in front of me, where I’m taking in all that good information as I sniff my way along the trail.
I can detect all kinds of things while we are walking. I can even tell, without seeing them, the difference between this little fella:
and this one:
and of course this one:
I like to chase the gray squirrels, but for some reason I’m not interested in chasing the little Douglas squirrels, which are native to our region. That’s a mystery to both me and Caryn. I may have to do some further research on that one. That last one is my toy squirrel of course, and I just like to keep him close at hand. Doesn’t smell anything like a real squirrel…
Both my brain and my nose help me to understand the world through smell. About a third of my brain is geared towards understanding aromas – the parts that decipher memory, pleasure and emotions all help me to recognize when my dog friend Bear is passing by the house – memories of our playing together and how much I like him flood my brain along with recognizing his special scent – and I can smell him even with the windows all closed when I’m inside the house! When I catch that aroma of another dog, I can also tell if it’s a boy or a girl, and how healthy they are.
Our keen sense of smell is part of what makes dogs a valuable companion for people. Some dogs are working dogs, like me. My work is about making people comfortable and happy, which I think is one of the best things we pups can do. But there are many helpful jobs we can do too specifically because of our noses – we can help find missing people, let people know when they need to take their medicine, and find missing or hidden things. Our orca whale friends also use dogs in their research. Tucker, and now Dio, are dogs who have been trained to smell orca poop in the water! When researchers collect these samples, they can learn about the health and diet of the orca. Pretty cool!
If you want to learn more about dogs’ sense of smell, here’s a link to a sweet PBS video . And I got good information from this article in the Whole Dog Journal too. Happy researching!
Speaking of research, I’m part of a research project!
As you can see, I am the 12,318th member of the DAP pack. That is a very large pack indeed. Scientists at University of Washington are looking at how environment and lifestyle affect aging in all types of dogs, which will help them understand aging in humans as well. Caryn is doing all the work, I’m just along for the ride. She answered a big questionnaire about me – from my exercise routine (a daily hike and ball game please), where I sleep (in the bedroom, of course, on my rug or a very big, soft chair), what I eat (variety and often please) and even if I brush my teeth (of course I do!).
Over time there will be more questions, and maybe some fun games to play. We played one once to see what my preferred colors were. I can’t remember what the results were so we will have to do that one again one day. And maybe some more scent training, so I can find good hidden treats around the house. Yum.
Well, have a good time, and stay safe out there. And by the way, since you now know my superpower, I wonder, what’s your superpower? xox, T