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The Dog’s Superior Senses

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As any pet parent knows, our dogs are unique in many ways. Not only are they loyal companions, but they can sense when we’re sad, happy and under-the-weather.


Because the senses of the canines are far superior to our own; sight, sound, and smell are all heightened in the dog, giving them some incredible abilities that we can only imagine.

In this post, we’ve gathered up some information on the dog’s superior senses. You will be astonished (and perhaps a bit envious) of your dog’s hidden talents.

I Can See That!


Let’s clear up a myth; dogs are not color blind. In fact, their sight is similar to a human who suffers from red-green color blindness (cannot distinguish these two colors).

Simply put, the dog’s eye contains two color sensitive cone cells in each retina; yellow and blue. We, humans, have three – red, green, and blue – which allows us to see a broad spectrum. This means our canine companions can’t make out the colors of red, green, and yellow. These are seen as one hue, as well as blue and purple (a second shade), and cyan and magenta are perceived as gray.

However, even though our pup may not be able to identify the color of his favorite ball accurately, throw that toy and watch your dog’s superior sight-sense go to work; the canine species can detect motion at a distance of 10 to 20 times better than a human.

They also have a broader peripheral vision capability and the ability to see in the dawn and twilight hours (almost like night vision goggles).

Combine these three visual attributes, and your average dog can accurately locate and chase down a person, prey or his favorite squeaky.

If you think that is impressive, let’s take a “look” at the “Sighthound.” These dogs (Greyhound, Whippet, Irish Wolfhound, etc.) have an even better range of vision. This is due to the placement of their ganglion cells in the retina (cells that receive visual information), which are horizontal, not in a densely packed cluster like other breeds. This is referred to in the scientific community as a “visual streak.”

The Sighthound also has a long narrow muzzle that allows the placement of the eyes to pick up a field of vision of 270 degrees (we humans can only see a mere 180 degrees), while “normal” dogs can see about 250 degrees.

I Can Hear That!

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The hearing is the dog’s second most important sense (next to smell), and it is far superior to ours. They can pick up frequencies of around 50,000 hertz (we humans are around 20,000).

Their ears are also physically built for sound. The erect ears of a dog curve inward to help direct sound into the eardrum, but even the floppy-eared variety still have special bones in their ears to give them a superior hearing ability.

The dog’s ear also contains around 18 muscles, whereas we have about six. These muscles allow your pooch to rotate his ears to pick up even the smallest of sound. Your dog can also move each ear independently of each other.

Police have learned to watch the K9 officer’s ears to help catch criminals. Two ears pointed forward in the direction of the muzzle means the dog has honed in on one person. But if one of the K9’s ears is pointed in the opposite direction, he has most likely picked up the sound of a second culprit.

Another impressive trait of the dog’s sense of hearing is his ability to filter the sounds coming in. If you observe a sleeping pooch, you will notice his ears are still moving to pick up sounds.

For example, your dog may be sleeping soundly through a noisy household and a blaring television, but open a bag to his favorite treats or pick up his leash and he will suddenly be ready to munch or go for a walk.

Lastly, the dog’s hearing can pick up sounds four times further than us mere mortals. They can also decipher the different barks of their fellow canine companions.

I Can Smell That!

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The dog’s sense of smell is by far its most developed and most important attribute. A dog’s brain, or more specifically, the olfactory cortex, is forty times larger than a human’s. The dog also utilizes about 300 million olfactory receptors found in his nose, compared to the six million in us.

Let’s put this in perspective.

The author of Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz, (dog-cognition researcher at Barnard College) writes that we may notice if a teaspoon of sugar has been added to our water. However, a dog could detect this same amount of sugar in a million gallons of water, or two Olympic-sized pools! This is why breeds such as the Beagle is used in airports to detect illegal substances being smuggled into the country.

The dog’s nose is also built to pick up from 30,000 to 100,000 different smells. We humans can only detect from 4,000 to 10,000.

Every wonder why your dog’s nose is wet?

This is to help him detect which direction the smell is being emitted. The canines can also use each nostril separately to increase his superior olfactory sense further.

Those Super Senses!

Who knew our canine companions possessed these abilities? The next time you are out walking with or even relaxing at home, observe your pooch. He may just be trying to tell you something by using those super senses.

About the author

Alexandra Seagal

Alexandra Seagal

As a dog owner and founder of, Alexandra Seagal focuses on providing answers to dog owners’ important questions and educating them on how to treat and train their dogs. When she isn’t writing, Alexandra can be found exploring the great outdoors and hiking with her dog and two young daughters.

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