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Good Sense?

9781616200459This month’s Good Read: Comet’s Tale by Steven D. Wolf. This tale is about two beings who meet, bond, and help each other to overcome personal difficulties and problems in order for each to have a remarkable comeback and recovery – one that couldn’t have happened for either, without the other. One is a greyhound, Comet, an abused greyhound racing dog ditched by her owner. The other is Steven Wolf, ditched by partners in the company he founded. Their remarkable bond and their faith in each other make them both winners again. This tale is powerfully and emotionally told. Christine Dorchak, President of GREY2K, USA said, “A powerful tale about life, family, and personal healing that reminds us all that greyhounds are love!”

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Good sense, and using senses well, are part of Comet’s Tale so a good lead into this month’s article. Dogs, or rather canine, senses are all very similar to human senses and, at the same time, very different! When we understand the similarities and, especially, the differences we understand our dogs better and our communication with them is improved through that understanding.

Dogs, like us, have sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell as senses. They use these senses, like we do, as a way of gathering information from their environment in order to be able to move, respond, react, interpret and communicate. Human or dog, if you walk past a restaurant and pick up the smell of bacon or beef grilling, your mouth starts to water – information in and reaction in response. Human or dog, if you feel a sting or burn, you pull away – information in and reaction in response.

A dog’s sense of sight is not the same as ours. Most, but not all, dogs have a wider field of vision, giving them better peripheral vision due to the fact that their eyes are more on the sides of their heads. For dogs with rounder heads (like pugs) their peripheral vision is closer to ours since their eyes are more toward the front of their heads. Due to this wider view, dogs are able to spot movement both in front of them, as well as to either side. I sure that’s why my own dogs, who are sight hounds, see the movement of that squirrel long before I do, which means I often end up in a land based “Nantucket sleigh ride” type situation being pulled through yards and nearly up trees! But dogs do not see color as brightly and distinctly as we do. Dogs are not color blind but they see colors differently than we do. For example, dogs will more easily see a blue toy in the grass than a green or orange one, since they see colors in more muted tones and they don’t recognize as many colors. They will, however, see a moving toy of any color more readily than a stationary one. A dog’s vision is usually best at dawn and dusk. Dogs have a layer on the eye which reflects light back to the receptor cells, so their night and low light vision is better than ours. Because of all of this, dogs rely more on contrast and movement rather than color and light.

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Many breeds which are sight hounds – like mine – are really attracted to movement and some breeds can chase prey for long distances as long as the prey keeps moving. All of these sight factors make for great retrieving, guarding, guiding, and hunting.

My dogs will eat almost anything they can get to – including on one occasion, an old cigarette butt! Yuck! Though dogs can taste sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, most dogs aren’t very fussy about what they eat, probably because they do not have a strong sense of taste and rely more on their strong sense of smell. Most of the dog’s taste buds are on the tip of the tongue, which in our dogs’ cases doesn’t get much use since they can eat their food faster than I can get it ready for them. Between prep and clean up, I spend more time with their meals than they do! Sometimes I think it’s more the words – treat! – dinner! – that excite them.

Nest time we’ll talk about some of the other senses, which for dogs are more important, more specialized, and in some instances, stronger than ours. But to stick with a theme…..you should start “looking” for your place to stay with your dog while you visit Cape May and get a real “taste” of the town. Looking forward to seeing you this summer!!