Dogs use the same senses we do to learn about and navigate in the world, but they do it a bit differently. Our typical priority is sight, sound, touch, smell, then taste. Dogs typically use smell then sound, sight, touch and taste to navigate and learn about the world.
When dogs live with us they relate to us as if we were dogs too.
Dogs don’t really know they’re dogs and they don’t know we’re people. Dogs, living with us, basically think we’re the same as they are except we may seem somewhat handicapped. Since dogs evaluate our behavior from a canine standpoint we make pretty poor dogs.
Smell: Rover wins paws down. He probably thinks we can’t smell anything. Imagine walking into a restaurant and smelling each individual ingredient in each dish as a separate smell. To us the smells are all jumbled together. Rover however, can detect, separate and remember every smell. Given this ability, it’s not surprising that his primary sense.
Hearing: Rover hears our car when it turns onto our street. Even if he’s sleeping he wakes up and goes near the door. We usually don’t hear the car at all. We don’t know that someone is home until we hear the door to the house. Rover’s hearing is many times better than ours. He can discriminate between sounds even in his sleep. He will look towards the window and a little while later someone walks by.
Sight: Maybe it is a draw. Rover can spot something moving at much greater distances, but we are better at discriminating details, especially up close. Rover’s eye sight however is much better at dusk and in the dark.
Touch: Our finger tips are loaded with nerve endings which allow us to feel textures although Rover also seems to feel textures. Some dogs get a bit nervous when they have to walk on a surface that they’re not used to.
Taste: We don’t really learn about the world by tasting it. Puppies and dogs will taste things, especially if the smell is enticing. Dogs and puppies are often eating things they shouldn’t.
Ok, so we are not very good dogs from a sensory standpoint. What does that have to do with our relationship with Rover? Rover already thinks we are a dog, he interprets our body language from a canine perspective, he probably thinks we have the same sensory experiences he does. This puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to doing dog things. As such we are not very good watchdogs and part of the leader’s job is to keep the pack safe.
Games: When people play dog games they often lose. Chase is a favorite dog game. We know that we are much slower than Rover. If we chase him there is no doubt as to the outcome. Our two legs are no match for his four. In addition, we are not nearly as agile as he is either.
Tug-of-War is another favorite. Rover grips the rope with his teeth and shakes his head in an effort to make us lose our grip, and he’s strong!
Wrestling. Maybe we can win this one as long as we can avoid Rover’s nails and open mouthed teeth. If not, we may lose.
So maybe we can’t win doggy games. So what? Well play is one important way that dogs figure out where they are in the pack’s hierarchy. The dogs that win the games rise up the hierarchy and those that lose, drop down. An interesting note however, is that in a purely canine pack, once a dog becomes the leader they usually don’t participate in the games any longer. They let the subordinates play and wrestle and do their version of doggy Olympics but the leaders rarely take part.
Because the leaders don’t play those games, they don’t have to prove that they’re the fastest or strongest. They gain the position in more subtle ways such as how they carry themselves. They are also consistent. They are also calm and exude a quiet confidence. In other words, they act like leaders. This can be a challenge for us as we’re often looking at the relationship differently. We look at it from a human perspective, not a canine one.
Once we understand Rover’s world a bit more and consciously choose to spend time in his world we get a different outlook. When he views us as his leader and teacher he’ll be calmer and happier. We see it happen day after day.
Happy Dogs = Happy Families