Our dogs live in a sensory world entirely different from our own. We believe the world looks, tastes, feels, smells, sounds a certain way. But it’s not the real world we see, it’s our perception of it.
How often have you argued with someone about what color something is? Or how something smells or tastes? We all see the world through a different lens from one another. Our dogs might as well be in a parallel universe.
That treat on the floor that they can’t see. That red ball in the green grass, that you can see so clearly, and yet your dog runs straight past. That cat in the bushes that you are sure they are going to notice, however, they seem blind to, until the cat makes the slightest move.
Dog’s eyesight is not better or worse than ours, it’s just different. Their sight is adapted to function in dim light. Some studies show that due to this, quick changes in light conditions possibly affect dogs much more severely than humans. Those times when a dog may be struggling to go from one environment to another and we don’t know what is startling them could be light conditions.
Typically, a dog’s acuity is estimated to be 20/75. This means that from 20 feet away, a dog can see an object that a human could see from 75 feet away. But, their motion detection is superior. Studies show that whilst dog’s motion detection is around 42%, humans motion detection is as low as 5%. This may explain why our dogs will sometimes walk past a cat or a squirrel oblivious to its existence and yet they can start barking and lunging at something we haven’t even seen.
Dogs have also been shown to have far superior depth perception than us. Some research has shown that they may also be sensitive to ultraviolet light. Not only that, one study even shows that they may be able to perceive the earth’s magnetic field. Some suggest that they even poo in alignment with it. This possibly explains why it takes them so long to find their perfect poo spot. Their color vision is still largely misunderstood but we think that they see in mostly shades of yellow and blue. This could explain the ball in the grass.
A dog’s sense of sound is also out of this world. Dogs can hear almost twice as many frequencies as humans. They can also hear sounds four times further away than we can. So when we are there wondering why our dogs are barking at ‘nothing’, or have been startled for no apparent reason, it’s worth remembering that we are severely lacking in the hearing department.
And we are all aware of a dog’s amazing nose! But do we really stop and think about how this makes their perception of the world so different from ours? (See Marc Bekoffs amazing blog on Woofbuzz about scent). Going for a walk without being allowed to sniff is like us being shown a beautiful landscape with a blindfold on. Pointless. To not allow a dog to process scent, however disgusting the things they smell may seem to us, is like taking away your ability to communicate in any way with others.
It’s easy to get annoyed or frustrated with our dogs when they are doing things that we don’t understand. That we often label as being bad, naughty, weird, stupid. But they literally live in a different world to us. They perceive, process, take in information in a way that can often be alien to humans. It makes you realize how remarkable they are for being able to live in our world. Busy streets, houses filled with strange smells that are unnatural and probably grotesque to our dogs. Us shouting at them for seeing, hearing smelling something we cant. When we get frustrated due to our dogs ‘strange’ behavior, just take a minute to think about how strange we are to them.