I discovered one positive outcome amid the pandemic: I love working with two dogs at my feet.
As someone studying dog cognition, I often ask myself: What does Charlie learn when he stops to sniff the fresh autumn air? What does Cleo think when she stares at me while I write? Are my dogs happy?
I am not alone if I suddenly spend more time with my puppies, thinking about what they are thinking. In the US, more people are currently working from home than at work, and many now share the home office with their canine companions. Additionally, many are finding their lives enriched with the addition of a new pet as people started massive adoptive dogs during the pandemic.
This increase in dog time means I’ve been asking questions from new and seasoned dog owners alike about their companions’ mentality. Many questions focus on the same topics that I am thinking about: What is my dog thinking? Do I do everything possible to make sure my puppy is happy?
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Fortunately, researching dog cognition can help unravel their thoughts and provide insights into what they need to live a psychologically fulfilled and happy life.
Dogs are familiar yet fascinatingly alien. To appreciate their “otherness” you only have to look at their sensory world.
My dogs and I have very different experiences when walking a trail. I marvel at the beautiful autumn day, but my dogs have their heads down and seem to ignore the wonders around them.
They do, however, appreciate something I can’t detect: the smell of the fox that scurried around last night, the lingering smell of the dogs that walked this trail, and the footsteps of my neighbor who last wore her walking shoes in the forest, Mine Dogs have never visited.
You’ve probably heard of dogs spying on cancer, guns, or even coronavirus. These dogs aren’t great at their nose power: your dog might do the same. In fact, the first dog to sniff on cancer sniffed a mole on its owner’s leg so often that she went to a dermatologist and was diagnosed with melanoma.
A dog’s sense of smell is estimated to be 10,000 to 100,000 times better than that of a human. This is in large part due to amazing differences in odor processing in humans and dogs.
While we have roughly 6 million olfactory receptors, dogs have a staggering 300 million. Your epithelium, or nasal tissue, is about 30 times larger than ours. And while humans have between 12 and 40 million olfactory neurons – specialized cells that are involved in transmitting olfactory information to the brain – dogs can have 220 to 2 billion, depending on the breed!
How can you even imagine this breathtaking difference in skills? This inequality is like spotting a teaspoon of sugar in enough water to fill two Olympic swimming pools.
Now that your mind is overwhelmed by your dog’s incredible sense of smell, you can use this information to make your dog happier by taking him on the occasional “sniffing walk” – let him lead the way and take so much away Time to smell what he’d like to be. Such walks can make dogs happier by giving them lots of information about the world around them.
Love is mutual
While there are parts of a dog’s mind that are foreign, there are also parts that feel very familiar. Chances are, your dog holds a special place in your heart. Recent research suggests that your dog feels the same way about you. Your dog loves you.
Dogs bond to their owners in the same way that human infants bond to their parents. Like babies, dogs show distress when left behind with a stranger and rush to reunite when they return.
A recent study found that dogs who have been deprived of food and owners greet their owners before they eat. Also, their brains’ reward centers light up when they smell their owners. And when your eyes meet your dog’s, both brains release oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone”.
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All of this research shows that there is only one ingredient that can make your dog happier: you. Make more eye contact to release the cuddle hormone. Touch it more – dogs like pats better than treats! Go ahead and “baby talk” with your dog – it will bring the dog’s attention more towards you and may strengthen your bond.
Understanding your dog’s mind can not only satisfy your curiosity about your companion, but it can also help your pup lead a good and happy life. The more you know about your furry friends, the more you can do to meet their needs.
And now I’m on my way to look into Cleo’s bright blue eyes, give Charlie a stomach massage and then let me take me on a “sniffing” walk.
This article is republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.