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Dog Behavior Introduction

Have you ever heard yourself saying to one of your dogs? “Roxy! Why did you do that?”

Yes, she probably looked up at you, showing that guilty, yet sorry pair of eyes. But she won’t tell you why she displayed that behavior, because she can’t!

We will discuss the importance of understanding dog behavior, as it applies to anyone who has or is going to adopt a dog into their family. Then we will discuss various traits and senses in a dog, and compare those senses with humans. Understanding how we differ will go a long way towards understanding what makes dogs do what they do. Other pages on this website will give information on specific dog behavior issues, including why they may be doing it, and how you can stop them from continuing. So, let’s get to it!

Why Is It So Important to Understand Dog Behavior?

Understanding why your canine friend does the things she does can often prove difficult, especially for a new owner. But to successfully include a dog in your family, understanding those behaviors is a must. All dogs will have moments that you might describe as behavior issues, but understanding why she might be doing something will help keep any bad behaviors at bay.

Did you know that the leading reason for a dog being sent to a dog pound or animal shelter is behavior issues? And for many of those dogs, it also means euthanization, all for chewing one to many socks! Perhaps if the people took the time to research potential behavior issues before they brought a dog into their lives, this number could decrease dramatically.

As a dog owner it is important that you take the time to understand your dog’s instincts and needs. You also need to accept that some behaviors, no matter how inconvenient to you, are just ‘a dog thing’. For example, barking is one dog behavior that proves troublesome for many owners. But barking is the dogs way of communicating. Expecting your dog never to bark is similar to expect your child to never ask questions!

A Dog is NOT a Human With Fur!

Yes, I know, this sounds obvious. But many people lose sight of this fact when trying to deal with behavior problems, and use methods that the dog just does not understand. And of course, they fail to correct that issue. So let’s explore some of those differences.

A dog has a much better sense of smell.

The human brain only allocates a few grams to the sense of smell, while the dog’s brain dedicates about one seventh of their total volume to detecting and identifying smells. While our noses contain 5 million olfactory receptors, the dog has 45 times as many! So it is pretty obvious who wins when it comes to the ability to smell!

To add even more to the difference in olfactory capability; a dog has the ability to identify just which nostril was closest to the odor detected. So they can quickly track down that source, explaining the uncanny ability to track missing people, or detect bombs.

The dog’s hearing is much more sensitive.

While the dog blasts the human out of the water with her sense of smell, her sense of hearing is not very far behind. While humans can hear sounds in the frequency range of 20Hz to 20,000Hz, the dog ranges between 40Hz and 60,000Hz. This is why dog whistles and Hear Doggy Ultrasonic Silent Squeaker Dog Toys work so well.

Similar to smelling abilities, the dog can also quickly locate the source of the sound. It can hear and process through each ear, and it can rotate each ear independently, allowing quick honing in on the source.

One final thing on the dogs tremendous sense of hearing. Because of the myriad sounds the dog is constantly exposed to, they have a unique ability to filter those sounds out. This could cause issues when you are trying to correct her, because she may not be listening to you. You must want her to think it is a pleasure every time you talk to her, and that will ensure she hears you when you need to correct!

Sight comparisons are mixed, but poor.

Finally, something we humans are better at! A dog, while not totally color blind as originally thought, do not see all the color humans can. While humans have three different color sensitive cone cells in the retina (red, green, and blue), dogs only have 2 (yellow and blue). This means that dogs cannot distinguish colors if they are green or red, or more specifically cannot distinguish the green or red from yellow.

The dog also has about half the ability of humans to distinguish changes in brightness. This means that even though we humans might be able to distinguish between two shades of gray, a dog could not. Finally, a dogs visual acuity is 4 to 8 times worse than a humans, meaning they have a harder time differentiating one object from another based on visual angles. Put this all together, and the dog is definitely lacking in the sight department. Below are two pictures, one as we humans see it, and the other representing how a dog would see the same picture.

Rodney and his dog, Roxy Rodney and his dog, Roxy, as seen by Roxy

Visitor Comments

This is your chance to add your feedback. Do you want to see information added about a dog behavior issue that you do not see on this website? Do you want to add addional information about existing behavioral issues? Or maybe you have more questions that either or another of our visitors might be able to help you with? Feel free to add your comment or question below.

Comments (1)

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don maitzen says...
My dog chews her paws until all the hair in a spot is gone (hot spots). My vet sais it might be arthritis. Dog is 12 1/2 years old and has chewed hot spots for many years, so I doubt it's arthritis. I think it's allergies, as it only happens in the fall of the year. I've tried salves and ointments, but only time seems to have any healing effect. Comments please.Sad
Don, it could indeed be allergies, but they typically do not stay localized to the feet only, instead they tend to spread to the entire body. Also, allergies usually show up at a much younger age (less than 3 years old). That said, it is possible that your dog suffers from a 'contact allergy'. That is either an allergic or irritant contact with something. You say it occurs in the fall; is there something you and her do in the fall time that you do not normally do the rest of the year? If you really want to rule out the arthritis that your vet suspects, have you had her paws x-rayed? Just a few things to consider.
5th October 2014 8:53pm
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