In the wild, dogs survive by hunting and scavenging and their body senses have developed so as to help them do this.

All dogs have a very well developed sense of smell. Their nose is about as sensitive as our eyes when it comes to distinguishing between two similar individuals. Smell is not just important for finding food, it is also one of the most important means of communication for the dog.

Although they can see well in the distance, which is useful when hunting, most dogs are not able to focus on objects which are closer than about 25cm. They are able to distinguish between colours, although these may appear muted to the dog and they see more clearly than humans in dim light. Although their ability to see detail is limited, dogs are very sensitive to movement. A stationary object may not be noticed from a distance, but the dog will be able to detect it as soon as it moves.

Hearing is well developed in dogs and they can hear sounds over a wider range of frequencies and a greater distance than man. We often exploit this ability when we use ultrasonic whistles as training aids. Dogs may find high pitched noises, such as those emitted by the vacuum cleaner and other household appliances, uncomfortable or even painful. Hearing ability is superior in breeds with erect ears, which act as amplifiers for incoming sounds and in those which can swivel their ears in the direction of the sound.

Taste, along with smell, plays an important part in determining the particular foods an individual dog prefers to eat. Most dogs enjoy a wide range of tastes and many are known to have a “sweet tooth”.

Like all other mammals, dogs are sensitive to temperature and pain and will respond with pleasure to a friendly touch. Body sensitivity varies between dogs, but most enjoy being stroked around the head, chest and back. However, many are defensive about being touched around their tail and rump, or on their feet.

Hearing, sight, touch, taste and smell are all important, but in today’s pet dog the degree to which each of these is developed has been modified by years of selective breeding. For example, the fast hounds, such as the Greyhound, Afghan and Saluki all hunt by sight and lose interest if they cannot see their prey. On the other hand, Bloodhounds, Basset hounds and Beagles all hunt by smell and will follow a scent, which may be up to a week old, for hours on end.

This information is referenced from the Waltham website which can be located at www.waltham.com

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