A dog’s world is not our world. Despite popular belief, dogs are not furry, four legged children. They are a species completely separate from us. One of the biggest differences is language. As obvious as it sounds, dogs have no language, they have communication, but not language. As humans, we tend to take language for granted. With language, I can think about having dinner at my favorite restaurant. I may not be hungry at this moment, but I was able to anticipate a future need (hunger) and formulate a plan (where to eat). With language I can formulate abstract ideas about life, philosophy, or science.
If I read the sentence “The pen is blue.” I have an idea of an object (the pen) and its basic characteristics (the colour blue, its basic pen-like shape, the ability to write stuff). With language I can live in the past, present or future. I can remember (without external stimulation) the time I went hang-gliding. I can feel the wind through my hair, and the freedom that comes from flying with the eagles, I can feel the chill of the atmosphere at 2,000 feet. Using language, I can communicate those sensations to you. With language, I can dream of the future. I can plan a trip to Brazil and imagine lying on their famous beaches, drinking fancy cocktails in fancier glasses. I’ve never before drank a cocktail on any beach, but because of language, I can get an idea of what it may be like. I can compare airline prices and find a decent hotel. With language it becomes easy. Without language, we could only live in the present.
Animals have memories, but they are sparked by external stimulation. They can recognize a familiar face and the joy or fear that comes from seeing that face, but they can’t remember that trip you took to Florida last year.
Dogs, and other animals, think in pictures. They are capable of basic emotions (love, anger, jealousy, happiness and grief), but not complex emotions (a love/hate relationship, guilt, embarrassment, shame). Like a human’s brain, a dog’s brain interprets and analyzes information and acts accordingly. Whereas humans use language to help us interpret information, dogs use their senses.
A dogs senses are different from ours.
They can see in darkness much better than we can. They can see at a distance better than us, though we are much better at seeing objects that are closer to us. A dog can spot a person waving at him from 20 yards away, but may miss that treat lying directly in front of him. Dogs are not necessarily colour blind; they can see blues, greys, greens, black, cream and white. By contrast, humans can see over 7 million different colours.
A dog can hear over four times the distance that humans can hear and can hear tones that we can’t distinguish. They have 15 different muscles in their ears and can pinpoint a sound in just a fraction of a second.
With 2 billion smell receptors in their nose, versus 40 million in ours, an average dog can smell over 100,000 times better than we can smell. They use their sense of smell, among other things, as a communication tool. A dog is constantly bombarded with smells. They can smell autism, cancer, menstruating women, age, diet, alcohol intake, fevers and even drugs inside the human body.
A dog’s sense of taste is not as developed as a human’s, they are capable of tasting sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. A dog’s sense of taste is linked to his sense of smell. A dog will not eat what he can’t smell.
Dogs seem to be tactile like humans. They communicate by touch and most really love to have their bellies rubbed! A dog’s entire body is covered with touch sensitive nerve-endings. A dog can detect subtle changes in air flow and air pressure. This is one of the many reasons a dog can sense ahead of time when a storm is coming. There are many acupressure spots on a dog (their chest, their head, their spine) that when massaged can even calm down an anxious or hyper dog.
A dogs world is not our world, but we have evolved together throughout the millennia. We train them and all the while they are training us, we learn each others body language and coexist. We depend on each other, as dogs were evolving to adapt to us (their brains grew smaller, their jaws became weaker) we evolved to adapt to them. Our brains also grew smaller, our sense of smell became less defined, our eyesight became weaker. It almost seems as if we evolved to depend on each other. We coexist. This has been true since the beginning of time and will likely continue until the last man or dog dies out. We have formed a partnership, we cooperate with each other and when done right, we’re in perfect sync.