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Study Unit

Sensory Abilities of the Dog
By

Cheryl S. Smith
Reviewed by

Mark Plonsky, Ph.D.

About the Author

Cheryl S. Smith is one of the original 500 members of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, a member of the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA), and a frequent finalist for the DWAA’s Maxwell award. She has titles in obedience, agility, confor­ mation, and water rescue and has worked with a variety of breeds and mixed breeds. Ms. Smith also has seven books in print and regularly fields questions from dog owners at her Web site, www.writedog.com.

About the Reviewer
Mark Plonsky received his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology in 1984 from the University at Albany, NY. Dr. Plonsky is currently a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. One of his areas of expertise is animal learning and behavior. He trains dogs in advanced obedience, agility, and protection work. He also works with PAWS With A Cause training service and hearing dog/client teams and has his own K9 Behavioral Consulting Service. His Web site, Dr. P’s Dog Training, is sponsored by the University of Wisconsin and is a popular virtual library of information on dog training (http://www.uwsp.edu/psych/dog/dog.htm).

As a professional dog trainer/instructor, it’s important to understand everything possible about the dog. You’ll find that not only will your clients expect you to train their dogs, they’ll also expect you to answer questions on every conceiv­ able aspect of the dog. In addition, clients will ask you to solve any behaviors they classify as “problems.” To do all of this, you’ll need both theoretical and hands-on knowledge. As you work through the information and exercises in this program, your knowledge will deepen and broaden. Don’t dismiss what you might consider extraneous—you’ll be amazed at how seemingly irrelevant information can come into play in your life as a dog obedience trainer/instructor. In this study unit, you’ll learn about the senses of the canine, and how they function. You’ll also learn how to take advantage of the canine’s sensory abilities in training, as well as how to recognize such deficits as hearing loss or poor eyesight.

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When you complete this study unit, you’ll be able to
• List the parts of the dog’s eye and explain each
part’s function
• Describe how the dog’s ears detect sound and explain why there’s no need to shout or repeat commands • Discuss how dogs scent and explain how humans use
canine scenting ability
• Explain the dog’s sense of taste • Discuss the dog’s tactile sense • Use touch to alter a dog’s energy level or mood

CANINE VISION
The Physiology of Canine Vision The Abilities of Canine Vision The Effects of Different Head Styles Using Canine Sight to Your Advantage Recognizing Eye Problems

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Contents
Contents

CANINE HEARING
The Physiology of Canine Hearing The Abilities of Canine Hearing The Effects of Different Ear Styles Using Canine Hearing to Your Advantage Recognizing Ear Problems

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CANINE OLFACTION
The Physiology of Canine Olfaction The Abilities of Canine Olfaction The Effects of Different Nose Styles How Humans Use Canine Scenting Ability Using Scent Abilities in Training

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CANINE TASTE
The Physiology of Canine Taste Choosing Foods and Treats

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CANINE TOUCH
The Physiology of Canine Touch Recognizing Skin Problems Petting and Massage

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SELF-CHECK ANSWERS GLOSSARY

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Sensory Abilities of the Dog

CANINE VISION
Perhaps you haven’t considered this before, but humans experience the world mainly through the sense of sight. Dog trainers have to understand that sight is not the dog’s pri­ mary sense. The dog’s primary sense is smell, and therefore, dogs experience their environment in a very different way. Learning how dogs see will help you to understand why some training techniques work better than others. Understanding canine eyesight will also show you why a dog that seems to be ignoring a handler actually might not be.

The Physiology of Canine Vision
The canine eye resembles the human eye, with a couple of significant differences. Figure 1 shows the basic components of the eye. Working from the outer layers in, the sclera surrounds and protects the eyeball, uniting with the cornea at the front. The cornea is transparent but tough, and nearly invisible when viewed straight on. You see, instead, the iris and pupil located behind it. If you look carefully from the side, you can see the clear bulge of the cornea at the front of the eye. Next inward, the iris, the ciliary body, and the choroid com­ prise the uvea layer. The iris is a muscle under control of the autonomic nervous system. The iris responds automatically to the level of light by opening or closing to regulate the amount of light entering the eye. The iris is what you see as the colored portion of the eye. It attaches to the suspensory ligaments through the ciliary body.

Dogs eyes are usually brown, hazel/amber, or blue.

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FIGURE 1—The Parts of the Eye

CILIARY BODY IRIS CORNEA

RETINA CHOROID SCLERA

SUSPENSORY LIGAMENT OPTIC NERVE

LENS

PUPIL

The ciliary body performs multiple functions in addition to suspending the iris. The ciliary body contains blood vessels and the muscles used to alter the focus of the lens, and it attaches to the sclera to hold everything in place. Moving toward the back of the eye, the ciliary body merges into the choroids, which is a layer of blood vessels that nourish the retina, which lies adjacent to it. The retina is complex and vulnerable to injury. Hence, the eyeball lies protected in a socket of bone, open only at the front. Those dogs with bulging eyes are obviously more susceptible to injury, which we’ll discuss a bit later. The retina itself has two layers. The outer pigmented layer nourishes the inner nerve layer. The inner layer, which receives the light impulses arriving at the eye, consists of rods and cones. Until recently, it was thought that dogs’ eyes didn’t possess cones and, because cones are responsible for seeing color, that the dog could see only in black and white. That thinking has changed. Now it appears that approxi­ mately 10 percent of the photoreceptors in the central area of the retina are cones. (In contrast, in humans this central area consists of nearly 100 percent cones.)

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The higher proportion of rods, which are able to see only black and white but are much more light sensitive, provides the dog with improved vision in low light conditions. An addi­ tional adaptation, the tapetum lucidum, improves low-light vision even further. Situated behind the photoreceptors in the upper half of the retina, the tapetum lucidum reflects light back through the retina, providing a doubled quantity of light to the photoreceptors. This reflective layer accounts for the “demon glow” of a dog’s eyes when hit with a bright light, such as a camera flash, or car headlights at night (Figure 2).
FIGURE 2—The Tapetum Lucidum in Action (Photo courtesy of Paul and
Karen Price, K9 Korner Training Facility)

With the tapetum lucidum in the upper half of the retina, most of the light received is from the darker ground. The brighter light from the sky falls on the tapetum nigrum, a nonreflective layer of dark pigmented cells. This arrangement enhances contrast in both visual planes. Humans lack a tapetum lucidum (and hence stumble about a lot more in the dark), but they have a fovea. This circular section of the retina, with a high concentration of photo-recep­ tors and ganglion cells (which transmit information from the photoreceptors to the brain), produces a sharp visual image. Dogs don’t have a fovea, and overall have fewer ganglia and their attendant nerve fibers—approximately 167,000 to a human’s 1.2 million.

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Dogs do have an area known as the visual streak. This oval section lies on the retina above the optic nerve, with its length along the horizontal plane. Photoreceptors and ganglia are concentrated along this section for the best area of vision. The visual streak is thought to assist the dog both in use of peripheral vision and the quick scanning of the horizon for items of interest. Wolves enjoy a greater density of ganglia in the visual streak (12,000–14,000 per square millimeter) compared to dogs (6,400–14,400 per square millimeter), and so may achieve sharper visual focus. Within dogs, the ganglia present in the visual streak vary widely, and the numbers may be genetical­ ly determined. The final structures are around the front of the eye (Figure 3). Dogs have tear ducts just as humans do, which prevent the eyeball from drying out. But they also have a third eyelid, called the haw, or nictitating membrane. When the upper eye­ lid closes, the haw sweeps across the eye, clearing away any foreign bodies. Sometimes, when the dog isn’t feeling good, the haw will rise up while the eye is open, making it visible. Dogs can suffer problems with their eyelids, and these prob­ lems are discussed later in this study unit.
FIGURE 3—The Eyelids and Tear Ducts

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The Abilities of Canine Vision

Experts agree that dogs do see color, though not exactly as we do. Dogs can’t differentiate green from orange from red. But they can discriminate between shades of gray to a much higher degree than humans. This is certainly a valuable ability for an animal that, in the wild, often hunts in lowlight conditions. In fact, the minimum level of light required for vision is thought to be perhaps four times lower for the dog than for humans.

Active Learning

To see what researchers think dogs and humans see when viewing a color band, go to http://www.uwsp.edu/psych/dog/dvision.htm This Web page shows how a dog might see a color band, com­ pared to how we see it. This estimate of a dog’s color sight reflects how a human afflicted with red-green color blindness actually perceives color. Their color spectrum is broken into a blue-violet range and a green-red range.

Field of view is the area seen when the eyes are focused ahead, including what we call peripheral vision. Though this probably varies somewhat because of the different head shapes of dogs (discussed in the next section), estimates of the canine field of view generally range from 240 to 250 degrees. Compare this to the average human’s 180 degrees. See Figure 4, which illustrates this comparison. In effect, dogs see more of what’s going on around them.

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

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OVERLAP

OVERLAP

FIELD

FIELD

FIELD

FIELD

FIGURE 4—Human and Canine Field of Vision and Binocular Vision

Binocular refers to using two eyes, while monocular refers to using one eye.

However, they may not see it as well. Their visual overlap— where the fields of the eyes are shared—is a quite narrow 30 to 60 degrees compared to humans’ 140 degrees. This certainly limits binocular vision, but not necessarily depth perception. Retrievers are adept at judging where birds have fallen, even if they don’t see the fall with both eyes. They might be using object brightness, judgment of areas of light and shadow, object overlay, or some other strategy of monocular depth perception. Experts are quick to point out that because dogs lack a fovea, their ability to see objects clearly suffers. Compared to humans, a sight-oriented species, this may be so, but visual acuity appears to vary widely among dogs, and could be inherited. Studies of different groups of German Shepherd Dogs found more than 50 percent to be nearsighted in one group, but only 15 percent in another group. Because this second group was being used for specific work, dogs that performed poorly were weeded out. That poorer performance could have resulted from nearsightedness, so that dogs were actually being bred, though not consciously, for better vision (Figure 5).

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FIGURE 5—Dogs used for guide work have to be visually aware of any obstructions in the path of their human, so having keen eyesight is crucial.
(Photo courtesy of Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc. www.guidedogs.com)

Dogs certainly are lacking in accommodation ability. This change in focus brings objects at different distances into sharp detail, and up close, dogs can’t accommodate. Though our abilities deteriorate with age, while young, humans can focus on objects as close as 7 centimeters from their eyes. In contrast, dogs stop focusing from 50 to 33 centimeters away. They shift to using scent, taste, or touch for close objects. To put visual acuity in more familiar terms, a dog’s vision is thought comparable to the vision of a nearsighted person diagnosed as having 20/75 sight. This means that what a person with normal (20/20) vision sees at 75 feet away, a dog wouldn’t be able to see until it was only about 20 feet away. In a sense, dogs trade off visual acuity for better low-light vision and a much greater sensitivity to motion. The greater number of rods in the canine eye allows for keener motion detection. Many prey animals instinctively freeze when threatened because of this ability of predators to key on motion.

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Dogs also rely greatly on body language for communication, and use motion to recognize those they know at a distance. If you stand still at some distance from your dog and the wind is blowing so that the dog can’t get your scent, your dog may stare or even bark at you. But if you start to walk, often the dog will start making tentative greeting gestures. Dogs can differentiate the tiny differences in movement from person to person, but don’t trust their sight as they do their scenting ability. However, they can be taught to recognize extremely subtle movements, such as the raising of an eyebrow or twitch of one finger, as cues. When working with dogs, visual perspective is also important (Figure 6). Those accustomed to setting up the perimeters and obstacles for obedience or agility trials often crouch down to dog level (though dogs’ eye levels vary as well) to check that the bar of a jump isn’t blending into any advertising or tape strung at the perimeter of the ring. Rings that produce a high number of failures on a particu­ lar exercise may have a problem related to the dogs’ visual perspective.

FIGURE 6—Surroundings created by humans appear very different from a dog’s perspective.

Do dogs enjoy watching television?
You may be aware that your television picture is actually a constant series of pictures, refreshed at a rate of approximately 60 Hz. This works well for humans because our flicker fusion, the point at which flickering light appears constant to us, is 50 to 60 Hz. For dogs, however, flicker fusion appears to occur at 70 to 80 Hz. So for dogs, watching television may be similar to our watching an old-time jerky flickering silent movie.

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The Effects of Different Head Styles

Dogs are often referred to as “plastic” for their extraordinary ability to change coat, size, color, and structure by selective breeding. Some structural differences, particularly in head shape, impact the dog’s vision (Figure 7). Breeding for specific work can also result in changes in vision, as in the German Shepherd study mentioned earlier.

FIGURE 7—Many things, including head shape, affect the domestic dog’s vision.

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The shape of the head determines the placement of the eyes. This can mean different fields of vision and different degrees of binocular vision. Head shape also affects how much of the area of binocular vision is blocked by the nose at different angles. Nearsightedness seems to be more common in Bulldogs and any of the breeds with protruding eyes, such as the Chihuahua and several other toy breeds, for example. On the other hand, some hunting lines of Labrador Retrievers, bred for their abil­ ity to mark the fall of birds for effective retrieving, and those used as guide dogs, appear to have close to 20/20 vision. Sighthounds, developed to chase game by sight, are especially adept at detecting movement, even at great distances. The brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds have their eyes placed on a flatter front of the face, more closely resembling humans. The dolicocephalic (long-nosed) breeds have more slanting faces and thus have eyes placed both more to the sides and angled more obliquely. Eye and nose placement give Afghans a greater field of vision but Pekingese more visual overlap.

Using Canine Sight to Your Advantage
Understanding the dog’s visual abilities can help you in class situations. Beginning classes are often chaotic. Why? Part of the chaos is often because there’s so much movement in the class area that the dogs become agitated trying to take it all in. Having well-spaced chairs for handlers to sit on, with their dogs beside them, can help to calm things down. For dogs being trained for any of the competitive dog sports, practice in catching treats or balls thrown to them can help them to focus better. For all dogs, concentration on visual rather than verbal cues makes hand signals particularly relevant (Figure 8). The movements used in luring a dog to perform a behavior are easily adapted to a hand signal for a specific command. For example, to teach a dog to sit, a palm-up, slightly upwardmoving hand motion works well. Similarly, the palm-down,

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downward-moving gesture to lure a dog into a down becomes the hand signal for the same. Field trial handlers use hand signals to tell a dog which direction to move to find a bird. Advanced obedience trials test a dog’s response to hand signals alone. Movement inherently means more to a dog than words, making it easier to use as a cue. In addition, beginner handlers are less likely to repeat signals or use signals aggressively— both of which are frequent problems with FIGURE 8—Hand Signal to Heel voice commands.
Plonsky, Ph.D.)

(Courtesy of Mark

Recognizing Eye Problems
Often, a dog that might seem to be stubborn or stupid is actually suffering from a medical problem. All physical problems should be ruled out before working on behavioral issues, and eye problems are no exception. Though you aren’t a veterinarian, you should be aware of common canine eye disorders, as dog owners will often look to trainers for all sorts of advice. Some physical conditions are hereditary; some develop when the dog is very young, while other conditions appear with age. Some eye problems, such as cataracts, can occur at any stage in a dog’s life. Congenital cataracts are present at birth, juvenile cataracts appear before the dog is three years old, and senile cataracts usually appear beyond the age of eight. In all cases, the normally transparent lens of the eye is clouded. How much sight is lost depends on where in the lens the cataract is located. Surgery can remove the lens. Some surgeons stop there, and some replace it with an artifi­ cial lens. Either option restores sight.

ALERT!
Physical problems should always be ruled out before working on behavioral issues.

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Cataracts shouldn’t be confused with nuclear sclerosis. This is normal aging of the lens, giving it a definite bluish color along with a hazy look. It rarely impacts vision, and occurs in many dogs over seven years of age. Though all breeds of dogs may suffer cataracts, some seem to be more susceptible. Australian Shepherds, Beagles, Boston Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Fox Terriers, German Shepherd Dogs, Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters, Poodles, and Siberian Huskies have a higher incidence of cataracts. As mentioned earlier, eyelids, as well as eyelashes, can cause several problems (Figure 9). With entropion, the eyelids (usually the upper eyelids) roll in and the eyelashes rub against the eye. This certainly makes the dog uncomfortable, and can create visual problems over time. It requires surgical repair as early as possible. Bloodhounds, Bulldogs, Chow Chows, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Chinese Shar-peis appear more prone to this problem. With ectropion, the lower eyelid sags out. Ectropion lessens protection provided to the eye and pools teardrops in the pouch formed by the lid rather than distributing the teardrops across the eye. It, too, requires surgical correction.

FIGURE 9—Entropion and Ectropion

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ALERT!

If the dog suddenly squints and becomes teary-eyed, suspect an injury to the cornea. A cornea injury is an emergency, and the dog should be taken to a veterinarian at once.
Dogs can contract conjunctivitis (pink eye) the same as humans, and indeed it may be transmissible from dog to human. The signs are the same—a red swollen lining around the eye, often with a thick discharge. Though less of an emergency than a corneal injury, conjunctivitis requires a veterinary visit. Progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA, is a hereditary disorder. The retina starts out normally, but for reasons unknown, the blood vessels supplying the retina disintegrate over time and the light-sensitive cells needed for sight die. Ultimately, the dog goes blind. PRA most often becomes apparent between three and six years of age. It’s an acknowledged problem in Labrador Retrievers, Irish Setters, and has been identified in Cairn Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Collies, Dachshunds, Gordon Setters, Poodles, Schnauzers, and Welsh Corgis. You now know probably more than you ever thought you would about the canine sense of sight. However, this infor­ mation might be useful in recognizing behaviors and problems associated with canine eyesight. Remember, your study units contain useful reference material that you can refer to again and again in your dog obedience training profession. Before moving on to the other senses, check your under­ standing of canine vision by completing Self-Check 1.

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Self-Check 1

At the end of each section of Sensory Abilities of the Dog, you’ll be asked to pause and check your understanding of what you have just read by completing a “Self-Check” exercise. Answering these questions will help you review what you’ve studied so far. Please complete Self-Check 1 now. 1. Dogs are classified as a. farsighted. b. having 20/20 vision. c. seeing only black and white. d. nearsighted.

2. a. A canine’s field of view is generally from _______ to _______ degrees. b. However, a canine’s visual overlap is only _______ to _______ degrees. 3. Dolicocephalic (long-nosed) dog breeds, such as the Afghan, have greater _______ but less _______ than brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds, such as the Pekingese. 4. Why does a rabbit often stay very still when it senses that a predator is nearby? __________________________________________________________________________ 5. Why are hand signals often more useful than verbal commands? __________________________________________________________________________ 6. Explain one way to improve a dog’s visual focus, and one way that dogs’ eyesight in general could actually be improved in the long term. __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ Check your answers with those on page 55.

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CANINE HEARING
If they could express their feelings on the subject, dogs would almost certainly proclaim hearing as their second most important sense, falling only behind their sense of scent. Watch even a sleeping dog and you’ll often see the ears swivel, reacting to sound. Because we humans are so verbally oriented, we expect our dogs to listen a lot, and they’re remarkably willing.

The Physiology of Canine Hearing
Think back to whatever basic anatomy you may have had in school, and you’ll already know a lot about the structure of the canine hearing mechanism. Humans and dogs share many of the anatomical characteristics of the ear. What we don’t share is the form of the outermost section. Human ears are fairly well plastered to our heads, and the ability to wiggle them even a tiny bit is considered a pretty neat trick. Dogs’ ears come in an astounding variety of shapes and sizes (Figure 10).

FIGURE 10—The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel on the left has large floppy ears, while the Welsh Corgi on the right has ears that stand straight up.

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The ear flap is also known as the leather, or pinna.

As seen in Figure 10, some ears flop down over the ear canal, while some ears stand up straight, either naturally or by a controversial surgical procedure called cropping. Whatever the ear flap may look like, its range of movement is quite extensive, and each ear operates independently of the other. As a sound collection device, a dog’s ear is hard to beat (Figure 11).

FIGURE 11—Canine Ear

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The external auditory canal leads down from the base of the pinna, then makes a nearly right angle turn inward (the horizontal canal) to the eardrum, or tympanic membrane. Vibrations reaching the eardrum pass through the tympanic cavity via three tiny bones known collectively as the auditory ossicles. This section comprises the middle ear. Within the inner ear, the structure of the ear splits into hear­ ing and balance functions. The cochlea, a snail-shaped tubu­ lar structure, converts sound vibrations into nerve impulses, and sends them along the auditory nerve to the brain for processing. The balance function is served by the vestibular semicircular canals, three small tubes, each approximately two-thirds of the sweep of a circle. They’re filled with fluid and lined with tiny hairs. The hairs react to movement of the fluid, which relates to position of the dog, and help keep the dog from falling over. This vital mechanism lies protected by one of the densest bones in the entire body.
The auditory ossicles are known individually as the hammer (malleus), anvil (incus), and stirrup (stapes).

The Abilities of Canine Hearing
Sound is measured in vibrations, or cycles, per second, termed either cps or hertz. It’s widely agreed that human hearing ability ranges from about 20 to 20,000 hertz, with the optimum range between 1,000 and 4,000 hertz. There’s less agreement about the canine hearing range. While it’s generally acknowledged that dogs hear somewhat less in the ultra-low range and considerably more in the high-frequency range, actual numbers vary widely. Experts cite upper limits of 35,000 to even 100,000 hertz. Pavlov is said to have demonstrated that dogs react to sound at 75,000 hertz. What­ ever the upper number may be, it’s far greater than our own. This wide hearing range means dogs are exposed to a flood of sound. One of their special talents seems to be their ability to screen incoming sounds. If you’ve ever seen a soundly sleep­ ing dog spring to full alert at the sound of a can opener or the arrival of the mail carrier after sleeping through loud music and a wailing fire siren, you’ve witnessed sound screening at work.

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But sudden loud noises are difficult to screen out. Many dogs react badly to thunder or fireworks or the crash of garbage trucks. These may be problems you’ll encounter with your own dogs, as well as those of your clients. To under­ score the effect fireworks have on dogs, you might want to share with your clients the fact that more dogs are lost on the Fourth of July than any other time of year. Though some say that canine hearing is only slightly better than human hearing, experiments indicate greater differ­ ences. In an early test, a small noise imperceptible to a man only four yards from the source was clearly heard by a dog 25 yards away. A different test reported that when a human responded to a noise from 40 yards away, a dog responded from 140 yards. Another experiment found dogs very precise in their ability to determine the direction from which a sound was arriving. This shouldn’t be surprising when you think about it. Hearing a rabbit but misjudging its location by a couple of yards to one side or the other wouldn’t result in many successful hunts. Dogs aren’t as adept at judging the distance of sound. Experiments involving sound sources placed directly behind one another at increasing distance from the dog usually ended with the dog stopping at the nearest sound source, whether it had been the one activated or not. However, the test results could have been corrupted by the dog visually recognizing the sound maker.

ALERT!

It’s important to note that canine hearing is greatly diminished if one or both of the ears are plugged. A dog’s ears should be checked by a veterinarian on a regular basis.

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Probably the most intriguing element of canine hearing is the mobile ear flap. Dogs can focus and capture sounds with each ear independently (Figure 12). Law enforcement canine handlers have learned to watch their dogs’ ears for clues to a situation. Both ears focused in the same direction as the muzzle indicates a suspect in that direction, while one ear flicking repeatedly away from the forward direction to some other consistent position likely indicates a second person in the area.
FIGURE 12—This German Shepherd is locating two sounds at once by keeping his right ear facing forward while turning his left ear toward a second sound.
(Photo courtesy of Paul and Karen Price, K9 Korner Training Facility)

Finally, there’s the interesting topic of dogs and music. There are many anecdotes about dogs “appreciating” music, even sometimes singing along, but dogs aren’t known to write reviews, so it’s hard to know if it’s appreciation or protest. Some dogs do seem attracted to music, running to lie under the piano when it’s played or choosing the spot where the sound from several speakers blends the best. Handlers who participate in the sport of Freestyle, in which dogs and handlers dance to music, often claim that the dogs choose the music (Figure 13).

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FIGURE 13—Dog and Handler Performing in Freestyle (Courtesy of
the World Canine Freestyle Organization, Brooklyn, NY)

It seems unlikely that we’ll actually know how dogs feel about, say, classical versus hip hop, but if they choose to be closer to the sound rather than farther from it, they’re at least not offended.

The Effects of Different Ear Styles
Many people claim that dogs with drop ears are severely dis­ advantaged when it comes to hearing. They point out that all wild canines have prick ears. This argument is usually used to justify ear cropping. Though there may be a grain of truth to the idea, it’s greatly exaggerated. And of course, breeders could breed for upright ears, just as they breed for certain markings and tail carriage. Prick ears probably do focus sound somewhat better. But drop-eared dogs are far from deaf, and they’re not depending on their sense of hearing to hunt down dinner, after all. The only real problem with drop ears is that they can lead to more frequent ear problems if owners aren’t conscientious about maintenance. And there are many ear styles between these two extremes (Figure 14).

Prick ears stand straight up as opposed to drop ears, which flop down.

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FIGURE 14—The Varying Ears of Domestic Dogs

Dogs appear to have no problem communicating with each other through the subtle gestures of canine body language, despite varying ear styles. And long drooping ears do have their uses, as you’ll learn in a coming section on smell.

Using Canine Hearing to Your Advantage
Dog owners, especially those who haven’t done a lot of train­ ing, fall into many bad habits in communicating with their dogs. You can use the following information to teach your clients about canine hearing so that they can avoid problems or break bad habits, such as yelling commands. Another bad habit is repeating commands, known among trainers as the “sit-sit-sit syndrome.” It seems that no matter how many times you tell the owner not to repeat commands, they still don’t break this habit. Instead, you must explain

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that the dog hears quite well—just remind them how well their dog hears a potato chip hitting the kitchen floor! However, you must patiently teach your clients that although their dog hears exceptionally well, it doesn’t understand any human language. Whatever spoken language you use to com­ mand your dog, the dog must learn those words. If the han­ dler gives a command three times (“sit-sit-sit”) before doing anything else to put the dog in the position, the dog actually learns that the command is “sit-sit-sit.” Because our language is all gibberish to the dog until we teach the meaning of some words, “sit-sit-sit” makes just as much sense as “sit,” or for that matter, “zucchini.” The words mean nothing to the dog until we attach a meaning to it.

Active Learning

Devise a demonstration to show the canine hearing ability. Your demonstration could include an easy-to-understand explanation of how well a dog hears, as well as several scenarios such as whispering “cookie” or “go for a ride,” or crinkling a potato chip bag some distance away behind an open door. Follow-up your demonstration with an explanation of why there’s no need to shout commands at dogs.

Dogs are, however, extremely attentive, and can learn a great deal on their own. You never set out to teach the dog that the sound of keys indicates a ride in the car, or that the ringing of the telephone means you won’t be able to come out and chastise a dog who’s barking in the yard or the next room. Yet dogs everywhere learn these things. Sound is important to them, and they quickly comprehend what sounds mean good (or bad) things for them. Dogs also show great understanding of intonation. You’re likely to get quite different reactions when you whisper the word “sit,” shout at the dog to sit, “SIT!” or ask if the dog will sit, “sit?”

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Recognizing Ear Problems

All puppies are born deaf, but the ears “open” in about 10 to 14 days. After that time, puppies that don’t react to sound may be congenitally deaf. This problem is associated with white coat coloring, and occurs more frequently in Dalmatians, Bull Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers, and Australian Shepherds and Australian Cattle Dogs. And of course dogs, like humans, tend to become hard of hearing or even deaf as they age. Any dog that seems unresponsive to sound, no matter its breed or age, should be checked for effective hearing. You can perform a very rough test by standing behind the dog and clapping your hands or making some other sudden sharp noise. But a veterinary neurologist can perform an actual hearing test called a BAER, or brainstem auditory evoked response, test. This test measures the degree of hearing loss in each ear. The long canine ear canal, with the right angle turn in the middle, creates a good environment for bacterial and yeast growth, especially if covered with a hanging ear flap to help keep the canal warm and moist. Dog owners should check the ears of all their dogs regularly or have a veterinarian check them on a regular basis (Figure 15).

FIGURE 15—Here a veterinarian examines a dog’s ear by lifting back the ear flap to get a good view of the ear canal.

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

23

Follow these steps to check a dog’s ears: 1. Look in the ear. It should be clean, smooth, and uniform­ ly pink, with no wax or discharge. 2. Smell the ear. Healthy ears have no odor, but infected
ears often smell unpleasant.
3. Touch the ears. Some dogs do have warm ears—you should know what’s normal for your dog, and if warmth is unusual. Any reaction from the dog indicating pain certainly means a problem. Some dogs grow a lot of hair within the ear canal. This can actually improve conditions for infections and result in greater problems. The dog’s owner or a groomer can pluck the hair. An ear problem might also cause the dog to shake or tilt its head often or frequently scratch its ears. The head shaking and scratching then can create further problems. Snapping the ears around can result in a hematoma, which occurs when a blood vessel is ruptured and the blood pools between the skin and the cartilage of the ear flap. Left untreated, the blood is eventually reabsorbed, but the ear may become deformed. A veterinarian can drain the blood and, at the same time, investigate the underlying ear problem. Ear prob­ lems can often indicate allergies, especially to food products. The ear flap is susceptible to a problem called fly-bite dermatitis. Dogs with upright ears fall victim most often. Insect bites on the tips of the ears lead to black crusty material becoming caked on the ears, which results in more scratching by the dog. A fly repellant can be obtained from veterinarians or pet supply store. Inside the ear, there could be otitis, which simply means “inflammation.” Otitis externa, an inflammation of the ear canal, could be caused by parasites, foreign bodies, bacteria or yeast, and skin disease. All are characterized by a foul odor coming from the ears and often a pus-like discharge.

24

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

ALERT!

It’s best to consult a veterinarian concerning all ailments. To aid the veterinarian, write down all symptoms, being as specific as possible, as well as any questions you may have before you place your call.
Ear infections are sometimes caused by parasites, which are actually ear mites—though they’re far less common than most people think. For your dog to have ear mites, it must be exposed to another pet already infested with them. Kittens brought into households are often the culprits here. Much more common are yeast infections. Yeasts love warm moist environments, and the dog’s ear canals are perfect. Bacteria grow well in the same conditions, and either or both may be present and causing an ear problem. The veterinarian can determine the exact cause of an ear infection and formu­ late the appropriate treatment plan. Otitis media, an infection of the middle ear, is uncommon, usually the result of an untreated ear canal infection or a punctured eardrum. Middle ear infections can upset the sense of balance, and are usually painful. The dog might hold its head cocked to one side, and will shy away from having the ear touched. Middle ear infections can lead to permanent loss of hearing and balance, and require immediate veterinary attention. They can also lead to even more serious inner ear infections, a condition referred to as otitis interna.

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

25

Self-Check 2

1. Deafness is a problem more often related to breeds with which color coats? __________________________________________________________________________ 2. The rate of vibrations of sounds are measured in hertz, or cps, which stands for a. b. cycles per second. chords per source. c. counts per sound. d. cycles per sound.

3. What use does the dog’s ear flap serve? __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ 4. Why is a middle ear infection a veterinary emergency? __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ 5. Why is it inadvisable to get in the habit of repeating commands? __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ Check your answers with those on page 55.

26

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

CANINE OLFACTION
Olfaction, or the sense of smell, is the dog’s primary sense. Unlike our world of sights, dogs live in a world of smells, or scents. Try to imagine how different life would be if you gained most of your information through odors. You would, of course, need to do a lot of sniffing, and handshakes might be replaced by a mutual sniffing of each other’s faces. A lot of dog owners think their dogs are doing something repulsive when they wander around with their noses to the ground or they begin to sniff another dog’s back end. But they’re just living in their world.

The Physiology of Canine Olfaction
Pretty much every millimeter of the dog’s olfactory equipment is superior to a human’s. Compare the cross sections of both a dog’s nose and a human’s nose as shown in Figure 16. The dog’s superior nose begins at the nostrils. The dog’s nostrils are comma-shaped, creating a swirl in the incoming air so that scent molecules circulate well within the nose. The dog can also flare its nostrils well to draw in more air. The nostrils and the whole nasal plane stay moist, helping to dissolve and release scent particles. Both humans and dogs have a septum, dividing the nasal cavity into two sections, and turbinates, which are bony structures that jut out and slow the air movement. But of course most dogs have a far greater distance from nostrils to brain than do humans, allowing for more specialized turbinates. The more forward maxilloturbinates create a lot of turbulence, which warms and moistens the air. The more rearward ethmoturbinates have many more scent receptors. Sniffing carries large quantities of air over the ethmoturbinates. Short-muzzled breeds such as the Bulldog, Affenpinscher, and Pekingese have a lesser scenting ability than some other dog breeds, though they still far surpass humans.

The nasal plane is the hairless part of the exterior nose, bearing a fingerprint-like pattern that’s unique to each dog.

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

27

FIGURE 16—Compare the noses in this illustration as you read about the parts of the dog’s nose.

Dogs also have sinuses, hollows in the bones of the head, which play some role in scenting abilities. The maxillary sinuses are located in the roof of the mouth very close to the roots of the large canine teeth. Any problem with the teeth can seriously affect the dog’s olfaction.

28

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

The sphenoid sinuses, located in the cheekbones, may or may not have anything to do with scent. But the frontal sinuses, found in the bones of the forehead, have olfactory cells and receive air after it has passed over the ethmo­ turbinates. A mucous membrane covers the whole nasal cavity. Within the membrane, goblet cells produce a darkish brown fluid with several purposes—it keeps the nasal cavity moist, moistens the air being breathed in, helps to trap foreign substances in the forward section of the nose, and farther within the nose seems to act as a solvent for breaking down and trapping odor-containing material. The olfactory receptor cells themselves provide the major reason dogs excel at scent. First, there are simply more of them, as listed in Figure 17.
FIGURE 17—The proof is in the numbers.

NUMBER OF OLFACTORY RECEPTOR CELLS

Human Dachshund Fox Terrier German Shepherd 5 million 125 million 147 million 220 million

Second, each olfactory cell ends in cilia, which are tiny hair­ like filaments of various lengths protruding out into the nasal cavity. Each cell is also coated in mucous. Both the cilia and the mucous help to trap scent particles. Human olfactory cells each have six to eight cilia. Canine olfactory cells each sport 100 to 150 cilia. The olfactory cells connect with nerve endings leading to the olfactory lobe, an actual structure within the brain (Figure 18). In a human, this section is roughly the size of a small pea. In the dog’s comparatively smaller brain, the olfactory lobe is the size of a large walnut. Obviously, much more brainpower is devoted to scent in dogs.

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

29

LONG SHORT FILAMENTS FILAMENTS

OLFACTORY RECEPTOR CELL SUSTENTACULAR (SUPPORT) CELL

BASAL CELLS

TO OLFACTORY LOBE
FIGURE 18—The Olfactory Cells

NERVE ENDINGS

The dog also has a structure completely lacking in humans— the vomeronasal organ or Jacobson’s organ. It runs along the floor of the nose, from just behind the canine teeth, and is connected directly with the olfactory lobe via 608 nerve bundles. If you examine a canine skull, you’ll find two holes in the roof of the mouth. This was long thought to be for the scenting of sex-related pheromones only. But now it’s credited with another use as well. Somehow, the dog is able to pull scent molecules through these holes (which are covered by the roof of the mouth in the living dog) and “smell” water. It’s this organ that allows a dog to find the rock that you threw into a river from among all the other rocks there. Dogs can’t breathe water any more than we can, but the vomeronasal organ allows them to smell objects underwater without inhaling.

30

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

Smell is the best developed of the senses in young puppies, enabling them to find their mother and her milk. It’s also a quite primitive and powerful sense, able to evoke strong reactions and distant memories. Some think a dog can always remember and recognize the scent of its first human, even years later.

The Abilities of Canine Olfaction
Because the dog’s abilities are so far beyond our own, they appear almost magical. But they’re firmly based in biology, and understanding them can help in our dealings with our canine friends. One indication of how well the canine nose operates is demonstrated when wolves mark their territory. While our dogs often seem to be attempting to pee on every bush they pass, wolves mark their territory in regular fashion, using established scent markers approximately 100 yards apart. Imagine standing in the middle of a football field and picking up scents from each end zone. Impressive in humans, but kindergarten for canines. Wolves, dogs, and other canines don’t acclimate to scent as humans do. While you may notice that a room smells of perfume when you first enter, the smell soon fades away. Actually, the smell hasn’t changed at all, but your olfactory lobe has ceased to register it. Dogs, however, can keep regis­ tering the same scent for hours or even days. They can also separate what we consider one odor (“stew”) into all its various components (“onion,” “carrot,” “potato,” “beef,” and so on) and choose which one to concentrate on. A simple count of olfactory cells seems to indicate that a German Shepherd Dog uses scent 44 times better than a human. But of course there’s more to it than olfactory cells. Today, most researchers feel that the range for a dog’s scent­ ing ability is 10 to 100 times better than a human’s. This estimate might actually be too low, especially for scents in which the dog is intensely interested.

Pheromones are chemi­ cals produced by animals that serve to stimulate other individuals in the same species to elicit specific behavioral responses.

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

31

Read the true account in Figure 19 to see just how height­ ened a dog’s ability to smell really is. You’ll be able to learn more about how dogs use scents a bit later in this study unit.
A natural gas pipeline in Ontario was due to open in 1974, but it leaked. In fact, it leaked enough that when a small section was brought up to pressure, it exploded. But it didn’t leak enough at low pressure for any man-made devices to pinpoint the leaks. Someone finally suggested using scent dogs. For three days, dogs already well trained in scent work were taught to seek the smell of butyl mercaptan (the odor added to natural gas) coming from below the ground. Then the handlers took the dogs out on the first 20-mile stretch of pipeline. Technicians had thought there were three small leaks somewhere in the section. The dogs found 20 leaks during the first day, and actual inspection of the unearthed pipe confirmed the dogs’ finds. Eventually, the dogs pinpointed 150 leaks in about 90 miles of pipeline, sometimes buried nearly 20 feet under­ ground. Our most sensitive instruments hadn’t been able to detect the leaks, but the dogs did it easily.
FIGURE 19—This story tells how scent dogs prevented a disaster.

You might have heard something about dogs being able to smell fear. Well, they can. Humans experiencing fear produce sweat from different glands (the apocrine glands) than regular old hot-weather or hard-work sweat. Dogs can tell the differ­ ence. They can use the same differentiation to pick out schiz­ ophrenics, because schizophrenics produce sweat from their apocrine glands all the time.

The Effects of Different Nose Styles
If you want the ideal scenting machine, look to the breeds developed for that purpose, the scenthounds. The Blood­ hound, renowned for its man-tracking abilities, and the Basset Hound have evolved to maximize their scenting abilities (Figure 20).

32

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

FIGURE 20—The Bloodhound and the Basset Hound are good at tracking scents along the ground.

Both the Bloodhound and the Bassett Hound have large noses, as well as good-sized heads for brain capacity (Figure 20). Bloodhounds have facial skin that hangs in folds, and their ears are long and extremely droopy, serving to funnel scent into the nose. Beagles lack the skin folds, but have the long drooping ears. Interestingly, these breeds are often labeled as stupid, stubborn, or untrainable, because they don’t ordinarily excel at obedience exercises. Ironically, after being bred to dedicate themselves to tracking scent, they’re often blamed for wanting to sniff around the ground! A different type of dog works well for air scenting. Taller and lighter breeds, such as the Collie or Doberman Pinscher, have long noses that contain large numbers of olfactory cells (Figure 21). They stand higher from the ground because they work currents of air rather than actual footprints. The Collie has unfortunately been bred for a narrow head, limiting the room for brain capacity. Short-nosed dogs are obviously at a disadvantage when it comes to scenting. Airflow through their nasal passages isn’t as efficient, they have fewer olfactory cells, and they often suffer from respiratory problems as well. Bulldogs and Pekingese aren’t usually in the picture as scenting dogs (Figure 22).

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

33

FIGURE 21—The Borzoi (top), Collie (bottom left), and Doberman Pinscher (bottom right) do well at scenting the air.

FIGURE 22—The Bulldog and Pekingese aren’t strong scent dogs.

34

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

Albinos and some white or dilute coat colors appear to be linked to an impairment of the sense of smell. The smaller breeds necessarily have a smaller area for olfactory cells and a smaller brain, so aren’t as acute at scenting as some of the larger breeds. However, that’s not to say that their abilities don’t far surpass humans. Toy breeds have passed tracking tests regularly, and some are used in various forms of scentwork. Beagles, not much larger than toys, are the dog of choice for airport agricultural inspections. So, size does matter, but only to a degree.

How Humans Use Canine Scenting Ability
Historically, humans have used dogs to help locate and hunt game. Though sighthounds use their eyes, most dogs rely on their nose. Europeans use dogs, which have replaced pigs, to locate truffles. But for many years, hunting was the primary canine olfactory service to man. Dogs were pressed into service to trail runaway slaves and escaped convicts. The true professionals, mainly Bloodhounds, weren’t expected to actually apprehend anyone—just to find them. Though Bloodhounds are a large breed of dog with an awe-inspiring bay, if the truth be told, they mostly just want to slobber on anyone they meet. Except for hunting game, the interest in putting the canine nose to work for human purposes has really risen within the last 50 years or so. People finally realized that dogs could help locate not just criminals but also victims of disaster— and search and rescue, as we know it, was born. Avalanche rescue became a specialized form of search and rescue, harking back to the image of the St. Bernard with the cask attached to its collar. Police began using dogs to find not just people, but drugs, explosives, and evidence. The ongoing “war on drugs” has brought drug-sniffing dogs into almost every police depart­ ment across the country.

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

35

Airports and border stations also began to use dogs to sniff luggage and cars for agricultural and food products. In addi­ tion, some really savvy pest exterminators have started using dogs to locate termites in the walls of houses. While guide dogs, hearing dogs, and assistance dogs don’t use their noses much to perform their jobs, other service dogs are hard at work using their sense of smell. No one is sure how seizure-alert dogs know that their epileptic masters are about to suffer a seizure. It could be a change in body language, but it could also be a change in scent. The currently accepted hypothesis is that the dogs scent a change in the body chemistry. Studies are now being done to use dogs to locate cancer cells within the human body. No one knows how they do it or what else might be possible. Though not as awe-inspiring, owners can have a lot of fun working with their dogs in tracking tests offered by various kennel clubs, as well as teaching at-home tricks such as finding the car keys or TV remote or playing a shell game with dog biscuits.

Using Scent Abilities in Training
Most trainers see the dog’s scent abilities as a major draw­ back and spend a lot of time trying to teach the dog not to sniff. You might as well try to convince a hummingbird not to fly. It’s a basic part of the dog’s makeup. Instead of trying to get rid of it, use it as a reward at best and figure out ways around it at worst. You can use it as a reward just as handlers with retrievers use tennis balls or those with Border Collies use Frisbees or Jolly Balls. Nosework can be used as the reward for success­ fully accomplishing other things. Lay a track or have some­ one do it for you. Practice your obedience exercises, and when the dog does something particularly well, go and work the track (Figure 23).

Jolly Balls are hollow, heavy rubber balls with a triangular attached handle.

36

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

FIGURE 23— If you’ve got one of the scenthound breeds, your dog will quickly figure out it gets to use its nose if it does its obedience work first.
(Courtesy of James Howley, Thornhurst Volunteer Fire Company Search and Rescue)

If you’re not that ambitious, you can simply reward your dog’s training time with a walk, during which the dog is allowed to sniff to its heart’s content. Getting rid of a behavior as natural as sniffing is nearly impossible, but encouraging it in certain circumstances can help to decrease it at other times. Plenty of trainers use scent in teaching various exercises. Many hold some food, such as hot dogs, in their hands before handling dumbbells, hoping to make the dumbbell more enticing to the dog. Others wear the same clothes they ordinarily use for training—the clothes that usually have food in all the pockets!—in the show ring. By doing so, the food scent accompanies the handler into the ring even when food isn’t allowed. Of all the dog’s senses, the dog’s sense of smell is the most fascinating because it so far exceeds our human abilities.

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

37

Self-Check 3

1. Dogs greatly exceed humans in their number of a. cilia and olfactory cells. b. sinuses and mucous. c. nostrils and cilia. d. olfactory lobes and sinuses.

2. What anatomical features help the Bloodhound excel at scenting? __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ 3. What special structure does a dog use to retrieve a scented object underwater? __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ 4. What strategy should you use to reduce the dog’s unwanted sniffing during training? __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ 5. Name three jobs in which humans have put the dog’s nose to use. __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ 6. How can dogs use their sense of smell to detect fear? __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ Check your answers with those on page 55.

38

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

CANINE TASTE
Owners who have been horrified at some of the things their dogs rush to eat (cow patties, road kill, or moldy bread among them), might find the term “taste” misapplied to dogs. But they do have definite food preferences. And they have the ability to taste food, though to a lesser degree than us.

The Physiology of Canine Taste
First, a word about canine saliva: it’s only a lubricant. Unlike human saliva, it’s 99 percent water, with very little if any digestive action. So while we humans have to chew our food to mix it with saliva and begin the digestion process, dogs can bolt their food (swallow it in large chunks) with no ill effects. Dogs definitely have taste buds. Four groups have been iden­ tified. Those designated as Group C respond to the taste of meat. They are the nucleotide receptors, found in dogs, cats, and humans, among others. But they aren’t as abundant in dogs as are two other groups. Group B, the acid units, are the second most prevalent sort of taste buds, but researchers aren’t exactly sure about their function. Their activity level is low, and they respond to odd substances such as inorganic acids. They might be a toxic warning system, but that’s just conjecture at this point. The most abundant taste buds, Group A, are the sugarsensitive receptors. Group D, the fumarol receptors, also register sweetness, especially fruity sweetness. This is a defi­ nite indication—along with the fact that the canine’s teeth include molars—that canines aren’t really carnivorous, but omnivorous. Wild canids (and many dogs) show a definite liking for fruit. For both dogs and humans to get the most energy out of fruit, it should be consumed at its peak of ripeness, when it’s packed with sugar. Taste buds that distinguish the taste of sugar are necessary for making this choice. Cats, true carnivores, don’t have any sugar-sensitive taste buds.

Carnivores eat flesh, while omnivores eat both animal and plant substances.

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

39

Though some experts differ on this subject, it seems that canines have no taste buds that react to the flavor of salt. Sodium is essential in their diet, but the meat they normally consume provides plenty of salt, and they have no need to discriminate for it. Pet food manufacturers, who regularly conduct taste tests, have found that dogs show preference for cooked meat over uncooked, select warm food over cold, and prefer canned and semimoist foods to dry foods. A ranking of meat sources found beef was the favorite, followed by pork, lamb, chicken, and horsemeat. A sweet taste is preferred—remember all those taste buds registering “sweet.” Bitter tastes are sensibly avoided. These, of course, are generalities, and may or may not hold true for any particular individual dog. Canines tend toward social facilitation. Many (though not all) wild canids are pack animals. They hunt and eat together. This gives the dog a tendency to want to eat when others are eating (one factor that goes into begging at the table) and to eat more vigorously in the presence of other dogs. Early experience with foods is important. A study showed that dogs fed only a soybean diet to the age of six months wouldn’t eat any other foods offered to them. Those fed a vegetarian diet were willing to try new grains and vegetables, but wouldn’t eat meat of any sort. The group fed a diet of meat and vegetables would try any new food that wasn’t bitter or stale. So it pays to ensure some variety in the diet early on. This doesn’t mean you have to feed a lot of different foods—it means you should use a food with a variety of ingredients. Dogs also have a long memory for associating foods with unpleasant consequences. An inadequate diet can take a week or even longer before it starts to create ill effects in the dog. But many dogs experiencing those ill effects will connect them with the food, and be averse to eating it again.

40

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

Choosing Foods and Treats

It often seems that dog owners have divided into two armed camps. One group feeds commercially manufactured dog food, some buying whatever is on sale, and some carefully reading ingredients lists and checking protein and fat con­ tent (Figure 24). The other group feeds a raw “natural” diet, often based on raw chicken wings and/or backs, and some devotees proclaim this to be the one true way. Getting caught between the sides can be unpleasant. However, you may be asked what you recommend by some of your clients, and you’ll need to have an informed answer.

FIGURE 24—Here are the ingredient panels from three different commercial dog foods.

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

41

You may be in one of these two camps yourself. But in advis­ ing your clients, consider that, much like a physician, your first mandate should be “do no harm.” Even if you feed your dogs a raw diet, is your client going to take the necessary precautions against infectious organisms such as salmonella (which is a hazard to both the dog eating the food and the person preparing it)? Will your client add the necessary vitamins and minerals and make sure all the dog’s requirements are being met? Will your client hurry to their veterinarian at any sign of trouble? (While proponents of bone-based diets don’t like to admit it, increasing numbers of dogs are dying from perforations of their digestive tracts caused by splinters of bone.) It’s far safer for all concerned to recommend a good commer­ cial diet. There are many now that use only human-grade ingredients and no chemical preservatives. You can even sug­ gest the addition of lightly steamed vegetables or homemade stock. Neither will unbalance the nutrition seriously, and people are often pleased to feel that they’ve contributed something to their dog’s meal. Whether dogs are fed a “home­ made” meal, or a commercially prepared dog food, you can safely recommend that your clients follow the food pyramid developed especially for dogs shown in Figure 25. Just like the human food pyramid, the largest section shows what the dogs should eat the most, working up to the smaller amounts necessary for a balanced diet. Food is used liberally in most positive training, and its calories, nutritional value, and potential problems must be considered. Some dogs will literally work for their dinner. You measure out their ration of dry food, use it for training throughout the day, and feed whatever is left as their meal. But many dogs won’t do this, and even dogs that will work for their regular food often respond more enthusiastically to a more enticing treat. But what should that treat be? Just as health-conscious humans steer clear of unnecessary additives and preservatives, you might want to avoid treats full of preservatives and humectants. Soft treats generally Humectants are used to prevent spoilage in higher contain both. Second, don’t use anything that can’t be broken moisture foods. into tiny pieces. You want to be able to reward frequently without ending up with an obese dog.

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Sensory Abilities of the Dog

S VITAMIN

For good vision and olism efficient metab

FATS
CARBO

CID FATTY A AND
and good For energy digestion

glossy coat For energy, healthy skin

LS MINERA and
S
BER

h For strong teet and bones

uscle tone wth and m y gro For health

FI ES AND T HYDRA

P

5 IN ROTE

FIGURE 25—This food pyramid has been developed especially for dogs.

That still leaves a huge variety of foods, and different choices may work better with different dogs. Only trial and error will tell. Jerky and dried liver are popular choices, though dried liver may be too light to throw to the dog effectively. Some very tiny hard biscuits, made especially as training treats, are also available. These treats have an additional advantage because anything that’s fed to the dog by hand assumes extra importance. It’s best to try different things and use whatever works best for your particular dog. And always remember not to overdo it.

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

43

Self-Check 4

1. What are some of the hazards of feeding a raw diet including chicken bones? __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ 2. Researchers know that dogs have taste buds for sweetness because a. b. c. d. dogs prefer the sickly sweet taste of spoiled flesh. dogs can recognize and reject foods like candy. all animals have taste buds. dogs can select for fruity sweetness.

3. Taste tests have found that dogs most prefer a. cooked beef. b. cooked lamb. 4. Give two criteria for choosing treats. __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ 5. Why can dogs swallow their food without chewing? __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ Check your answers with those on page 56. c. raw lamb. d. raw beef.

44

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

CANINE TOUCH
When exploring canine touch, you have to look at the issue from two sides.

• •

How does the dog use touch to assess the environment? How does the dog react to being touched?

Dogs use their sense of touch to learn about their environ­ ment using their whiskers and paws, as well as their skin. As far as touching dogs goes, most people like to pet dogs. But there are right and wrong ways to touch a dog. Before we learn about that, let’s explore how the dog uses touch.

The Physiology of Canine Touch
Technically known as vibrissae, whiskers are specialized modifications of sinus hairs. Long, straight, and stiff, they generally occur in tufts, and in the dog are found on the sides, top, and bottom of the head. Each whisker is rooted deeply and has a base with a good blood supply and a generous number of nerve endings. The whiskers on the muzzle can be raised to stand straight out from the head or lowered to sweep back closer to the muzzle. Canines flare their muzzle whiskers when they’re agitated. Whisker position is a good detail to observe when trying to assess a situation. The whiskers are sometimes referred to as “curb feelers,” helping the dog to know where surfaces are in relation to the head, which is particularly useful in burrows in the dark, such as when terriers “go to ground.” Some experts also think that the whiskers on the muzzle help to funnel scent to the nose, much as if you cupped your hands around your nose. The dog’s paws are also sensitive and are used in exploring the environment, touching objects too close for the dog to focus well on visually. Because they’re sensitive, paws can be burned by hot pavement, bruised by stones or stubble, or cut by any number of sharp objects, including shells on the beach.

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

45

Although dogs use their whiskers and paws to explore their world, most of their sense of touch involves the skin. It’s the largest organ of the canine body, a watertight covering for the rest of the anatomy. The haircoat is included as part of the skin (Figure 26). Canine skin closely resembles human skin. Both have an outer layer, the epidermis, which is continually sloughing off to reveal new skin cells. Believe it or not, much of the “dust” in your home is actually shed skin cells. The epidermis is thicker where it needs to be, such as on a dog’s pads or the soles of our feet. Under the epidermis is the dermis, a much deeper layer containing hair follicles, glands, and the beds for toenails and fingernails. Its blood supply nourishes the epidermis, and its pliable nature allows the skin to rebound to its relaxed shape after being stretched or cut. Within the dermis, the seba­ ceous glands excrete oils to help waterproof the dog’s coat. The dog has few sweat glands, mostly in the paws, and they’re used more as a means of marking territory than as a cooling system.

FIGURE 26—The Structure of the Skin

46

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

The next layer down under the dermis is the subcutis, which loosely connects the skin, allowing it to be lifted up. The skin over the back of the dog’s lower neck to shoulders is espe­ cially loose. Veterinarians will often lift a fold here to see how quickly it snaps back to its usual shape. A slow response generally means the dog is dehydrated. Dogs have plenty of hair follicles—except for the “hairless” breeds, of course. In dogs with double coats, both the thick outer guard hairs and the softer undercoat grow out of follicles. A canine’s coat has remarkable insulating properties, with the guard hairs able to stand up, trapping air close to the skin for warmth, or slick down tight to keep moisture away from the skin. Regular grooming keeps the haircoat in good condition for performing these services. Figure 27 shows just a few of the wide variety of haircoats. The color of haircoats varies greatly as well and is based on a protein group called melanins.

FIGURE 27—Domestic dogs exhibit an astonishing variety of haircoats.

Recognizing Skin Problems
Undoubtedly the most frequent canine skin problem is fleas. While some dogs ignore the bites of these little bloodsuckers, many bite and scratch incessantly. This creates flea-bite dermatitis, which was mentioned earlier when we discussed problems associated with bites on the ears.

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

47

Active Learning

Talk with a veterinarian or groomer about flea control. You can also research flea control by checking out pertinent Web sites or reading related magazine articles or brochures from flea con­ trol products. Learn about pills, spot-ons, sprays, and collars. Be sure you are familiar with IGRs (insect growth regulators) and insecticides, as well as products for the dog and for the environment (indoors and out). After reviewing all the information, write a fact sheet explaining flea control options. Eventually, you may want to prepare the information as a handout for your clients.

You might be surprised to learn that dogs with allergies don’t tend to have runny eyes and noses. What bothers them much more is itchy skin. Some lick their paws and legs in a vain attempt to ease the itch, often creating a lick granuloma, an irritated oozy area. This attention to the legs is a fairly good indicator of allergy, while chewing at the base of the tail nearly always means fleas. Weed seeds are another problem. Many are constructed so that they burrow forward. Foxtails, a type of weed that’s prevalent in much of the country, can penetrate an animal’s skin and travel on, creating sores and even possibly death if they find their way to a vital organ. Figure 28 illustrates what a foxtail plant looks like. Grooming to remove weed seeds is absolutely essential. Other cuts or scratches, as well as para­ site problems, can be hidden by the haircoat and can become extensive and expensive problems if not found. Hair can mat, especially behind ears and between the front legs and body, and create discomfort and skin aggravation. Daily grooming and inspection is an excellent idea. It keeps mats from forming, improves blood circulation to the skin, and keeps the coat healthy and gleaming.

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Sensory Abilities of the Dog

FIGURE 28—Foxtail

Daily grooming also helps in finding any other skin problems, such as infection, dry patches, or redness, and is a good time to look for any lumps or bumps. Many lumps are harmless, and old dogs in particular are prone to them, but some are tumors, and early discovery of them provides the best possi­ ble outcome. The skin and haircoat provide an excellent indication of nutritional status. A dog with a dull haircoat might not be receiving adequate nutrition or may be suffering from some disease, allergy, or metabolic problem that prevents effective utilization of nutrients.

Petting and Massage
No doubt about it, dogs like touching. Puppies sleep in a pile, and canine chums often lie with backs or rumps touching. Dogs often literally sleep at the feet of their humans, keeping in touch, as it were. They use nudges, nibbles, body slams, and biting as part of their communication repertoire. You can use touch as a reward, to rev your dog up, or to calm it down. But you have to know where and how to touch.

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

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Though each dog has his or her own preferences, some general guidelines apply to most dogs. For most dogs, stroking with the lay of the hair—from head to tail, down the legs—is relaxing. So is gently rubbing the corners of the mouth, the muzzle in front of the eyes, or the base of the ears. Certain dogs seem to enjoy having their handlers trace long ovals on either side of their breastbones. Rubbing against the haircoat tends to get dogs worked up. You can use this if you need to hype a dog before competing in agility or some other active sport, or as part of a rough and rowdy play session after the intensity of advanced obedience competition. Touch, whether it’s informal petting or more organized massage or acupressure, is a great way to strengthen the human-canine bond. But it can be even more. People claim some spectacular results with various forms of massage or acupressure. Acupressure works on the Chinese theory of ch’i, the energy force present in all living things, and focuses on unblocking energy wherever it isn’t flowing properly. Acupressure points have long been known for all domestic creatures (though the dog was one of the last because the Chinese don’t favor the dog as a companion). You use the fingers or thumbs to apply pressure to the points appropriate to whatever problem is being worked on. Figure 29 shows some acupressure points on the feet and their uses. Acupressure can be used to reduce or counteract many small problems. It’s an automatic reaction to rub an area that you have just bumped, in a rough approximation of acupressure. Many people know that leg cramps can be magically chased away by pinching the middle of the upper lip. But don’t try to cure your dog with acupressure without knowing what you’re doing. There are many, many acupressure points, and you can do damage by applying pressure in the wrong place. You can, however, use acupressure as a calming device. In addi­ tion to the point on the front paw, Figure 30 shows some points to use on the head.

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Sensory Abilities of the Dog

FOR ASTHMA ATTACK

CALMING POINT FOR ANXIETY

FOR COLLAPSE

INSIDE FRONT RIGHT PAW
FIGURE 29—Acupressure Points on the Feet

FRONT PAW

INSIDE REAR PAW

FIGURE 30—Calming Points on the Head

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

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Massage works with the soft tissues, kneading them gently or more firmly to invigorate them. Massaging before exercise helps to loosen up muscles and avoid injuries. Massaging after exercise can help minimize muscle strains. Massage can even be used to hasten recovery of strains or pulls, though if your dog reacts by trying to get away or by showing pain, you should stop immediately. There are different forms of massage, using varying sorts of touches. Probably the most popular for use with dogs (or horses) is Ttouch, developed by Linda Tellington-Jones. It uses small circular motions, holding the fingers in different positions, pressing enough to move the skin. One theory holds that massage can help dogs that are compulsive chewers. They’re said to be suffering from stress held in their neck and jaws, and are trying to relieve it by shredding everything they can get their teeth on. Massaging the neck, jaws, even the gums if the dog is agreeable, can help relieve the tension—and the need to chew.

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Sensory Abilities of the Dog

Self-Check 5

1. Acupressure is applied to points using a. finger pressure. b. circles. 2. Hair follicles grow out of the _______. 3. It’s important to be aware of the fact that the dog’s paws are a. impervious. b. sticky. c. smooth. d. sensitive. c. needles. d. burning incense.

4. Veterinarians sometimes test for dehydration by determining if a dog’s _______ is pliant and can reshape quickly. 5. Describe two situations where massage can be particularly useful. __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ 6. Name several benefits of daily grooming. __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ Check your answers with those on page 56.

Sensory Abilities of the Dog

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NOTES

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Sensory Abilities of the Dog

Self-Check 1

1. d

Answers
Answers

2. a. 240, 250 b. 30, 60 3. field of vision, visual overlap 4. Prey animals remain still because predators’ eyesight keys on motion. 5. Dogs concentrate more on visual than verbal cues, so are more attuned to hand signals. Handlers use hand signals better than verbal commands (which are often shouted or repeated). 6. A dog’s visual focus can be improved by teaching it to catch treats or balls. Dogs’ eyesight could be improved by breeding for better vision.

Self-Check 2
1. White 2. a 3. The dog’s ear flap focuses and collects sound. 4. It can lead to permanent loss of hearing or balance. 5. The dog learns the English we teach, and if you repeat commands, the dog learns the command as exactly that repeated phrase, such as “sit-sit-sit.”

Self-Check 3
1. a 2. A large muzzle and head, skin folds, and long drooping ears 3. Vomeronasal organ 4. Use scentwork as a reward after the dog has performed in training.

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5. Finding leaks in pipelines, hunting, finding truffles, tracking people, search and rescue, sniffing drugs, finding explosives, detecting illegal foodstuffs or agricul­ tural products at airports, alerting for seizures 6. Dogs can differentiate scent from the human apocrine gland, which is activated by fear.

Self-Check 4
1. Salmonella (in dog or human), an unbalanced diet, internal injuries, death 2. d 3. a 4. Lack of preservatives and humectants, ability to use small pieces, ability to throw 5. Since their saliva doesn’t contain digestive enzymes, there’s no need for dogs to chew food to mix saliva with food

Self-Check 5
1. a 2. dermis 3. d 4. Skin 5. Massage before exercise helps to warm up muscles and prevent injuries. Massage after exercise helps to minimize minor muscle injuries. Massaging the neck and jaws can help relax compulsive chewers. 6. Grooming removes weed seeds before they cause prob­ lems, keeps mats from forming, keeps the coat healthy, improves blood circulation to the skin, and helps find lumps or cuts.

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Self-Check Answers

accommodation The ability to focus on objects at different distances.

Glossar y
Glossar y
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auditory ossicles The three small bones of the middle ear. BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) A hearing test. bolting Swallowing food in large chunks without chewing. brachycephalic A short-nosed skull structure. ch’i Known as the energy of the body. choroid Layer of blood vessels nourishing the retina in the eye. cilia Hairlike filaments extending from olfactory cells into the nasal cavity. ciliary body Structure in the eye connecting the iris to the sclera. cochlea Snail-shaped structure of the ear that converts sound vibrations to nerve impulses. cones Photoreceptors responsible for seeing color. cornea The transparent covering at the front of the eye. cropping Surgical alteration of the dog’s ears. dermis Deeper layer of skin containing the hair follicles and glands. dolicocephalic Long-nosed skull structure. ear flap Outer visible portion of the ear that’s also called the leather or pinna. ectropion Sagging outward of the eyelid. entropion Rolling in of the eyelid, bringing the eyelashes in contact with the eyeball. epidermis Outer layer of skin. flea-bite dermatitis Skin irritation caused by reaction to flea bites. flicker fusion The point at which flickering light, such as from a television, appears to be constant.

fly-bite dermatitis Skin problem resulting from fly bites to the tips of the ears. fovea Area of the retina in humans with a high concentration of photoreceptors. ganglion cells (ganglia) Cells that transmit information from the photoreceptors to the brain. goblet cells Cells within the mucous membrane of the nose that produce a dark brownish fluid to keep the nasal cavity moist. guard hairs Thick outer hairs of the haircoat. haw Third eyelid of the dog. hematoma Pool of blood caused by a rupture of a blood vessel. hertz Measurement of sound, in cycles per second. iris Muscle that regulates the amount of light entering the eye. lick granuloma Skin irritation resulting from the dog’s chewing and licking. melanins Pigments providing color to hair. nasal plane The visible exterior hairless part of the nose. nuclear sclerosis Aging of the lens of the eye. olfactory lobe Structure within the brain dedicated to processing scent. otitis Inflammation of the ear. progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) Hereditary disorder of the retina in which the light-sensing cells die. retina Layer of the eye holding the light-sensing rods and cones. rods Photoreceptors responsible for seeing light. sclera The outer layer of the eye. sebaceous glands Glands within the skin which secrete oils to help keep the haircoat waterproof. semicircular canals Small tubes within the ear responsible for balance.

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Glossary

sinuses Hollows in the bones of the head. social facilitation The tendency of canines to live, hunt, eat, and peform other activities in groups. subcutis Deepest layer of skin. tapetum lucidum Reflective layer at the back of the eye. turbinates Bony structures within the nasal cavity. undercoat Softer woollier hairs lying under the guard hairs. vibrissae Whiskers, specialized to serve as sensors. visual perspective The dog’s point of view. visual streak Oval section of the dog’s retina where photoreceptors are concentrated. vomeronasal organ Structure in the floor of the dog’s nose responsible for reacting to sex pheromones and for “smelling” underwater.

Glossary

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