Daily Dawgs: Rufus on patrol
March 12, 2023
Hi guys! It’s me, Rufus! Spring has almost sprung! This is my favorite time of the year because all the birds and woodland creatures start to emerge, which means lots of good smells to sniff in the yard! Sniffing is a very important thing for us dogs. My mom says that’s how dogs see the world – through their noses. I know, I know, it sounds crazy because we have eyes, too, but Mom says that dogs’ eyes don’t see the same as human eyes. My mom is pretty special and teaches me a lot of cool stuff almost every day! Me and Mom contacted a local veterinarian to ask about how different dogs’ eyes and noses are from humans’. I was sitting there listening the whole time, but I don’t remember everything she said – but Mom took notes, so I’ll just let her tell you.
Dr. Brandy Doggett has owned and operated Striegel Animal Hospital in Carbondale for the past nine years and was kind enough to take some time out of her busy day to provide some interesting information on how dogs experience the world through sight and scent. We all know that dogs have a better sense of smell than humans, but just how much better? A quick online search will tell you that dogs have over 100 million olfactory receptors, and humans have around six million, but that isn’t the whole story.
“It’s definitely breed-specific,” Dr. Doggett said. “If you take a Chihuahua or something like that, they’re going to have less olfactory sensors than a bloodhound, for example.”
Referencing a trusted source, a neurologist out of the University of Tennessee, she said, “… German Shepherds have about 220 million [olfactory] cells and Dachshunds about 125 million cells.”
Additionally, she indicated that the area of a dog’s brain dedicated to processing the scent information is roughly four times larger compared to the same area of the human brain. A dog’s sense of smell may dwarf that of humans’, but their eyes are not extraordinary. Doggett indicated that, again, a dog’s visual acuity varies among breeds.
“We have sight hounds … our Salukis and Greyhounds, they’re the ones who hunt by sight, they don’t hunt by scent,” she said.
Speaking more generally of a dog’s visual acuity, Doggett said, “Their vision is kind of like some colorblind human vision. They don’t see reds, they see more yellows and blues, and they don’t really see greens. So if you have a red ball on the green grass, they’re not going to see it.”
She said that dogs do have the ability to see different shades, however, so if, for instance, the contrast between the red ball and the green grass is great enough, a dog may notice the contrast in shades. Dog’s eyes have a higher rod to cone ratio in the cornea than humans, which allows them to see better in low light, but makes them near-sighted and less able to distinguish finer details. To put it more simply, dogs have roughly 20/75 vision in comparison to what is considered perfect vision, 20/20, in humans.
Ok, back to me! Anyway, I wanted to tell you all about the woodland creatures! Let me set the scene. We were outside on a nighttime security patrol, which also doubles as potty time for me. There we were, casually walking around the yard, Mom looking at the stars and me doing what I do best – sniffing. When all of a sudden, almost from out of nowhere, I caught the scent of what I think Mom calls a rabbit! A rabbit! In my yard! Perimeter breach!!
I put my nose to the ground and started following the scent, with Mom at the other end of the leash trying to keep up – I was in hot pursuit! I sniffed it out from one side of the yard, across the rock driveway, to the other side of the yard, sniffing as fast as I could the whole way. It wasn’t hard to keep the scent, like Mom said, it’s what dogs do best! I sniffed and sniffed until I reached the boundary near the woods that Mom doesn’t let me go past. She says there’s lots of snakes in that part of the yard, and she’s worried about me. She’s a good mom! But I got off topic.
When I stopped at the boundary, I started sniffing the air; I even stood up on my back legs for a second and sniffed, trying to figure out where the rabbit went. Occasionally, I pulled against the leash, but only a little and only because I was just so excited to be on a fresh scent trail! Usually, the scent trails I find are old, so I know there’s nothing in the yard still. But this one was different. That’s when I saw it! The rabbit I had been smelling! It wasn’t very far away; Mom says only a few feet, and a few feet is only a few Rufuses. Mom says from the base of my neck to the base of my tail is one foot, but I’m getting off topic again.
The rabbit! I had never seen one in real life before! I didn’t know what to do! I was so shocked to see it that all I could do was stand there and look at it. Mom stood with me, so still and so quiet – we didn’t want to scare it away. We stood there for a long time, until Mom gave the leash a slight tug and said, “Ok Ruf, let’s move along. It’s giving me creepy stalker vibes to just stand here and watch the rabbit like this.” She can be such a wet blanket sometimes.
Dr. Doggett had some insight on this particular situation as well, and said, “It’s kind of like a standstill. Rufus is waiting for the rabbit to move. The rabbit isn’t going to move because he knows if he moves the predator is going to see him; they’re invisible until they move. … But as soon as it moves, it catches his eye and he’s going to fixate on it, and do the little stare, just waiting for it to move. And then the game is on.”
Dr. Doggett was right! The game was on, and I didn’t want to move! I made my body as heavy as I could and sat down. That made Mom laugh, and I love to hear her laugh because it means she’s happy! Except not this time, because I didn’t want the rabbit to run away, I wanted to keep watching it! I turned my head and looked at her, hoping she would take the hint to pipe down, but that just made her laugh again. Then she said it reminded her of something some Looney Tunes guy named Elmer used to say about rabbits, and that you have to be vewy, vewy quiet. I wish she would have remembered that sooner! Then she took a picture – with the flash on! She’s not very good at this now that I think about it. Maybe Dr. Doggett should be my adventure buddy from now on – she seems to know what’s what.
Mom got her picture, but the rabbit had run off to do whatever it is that rabbits do while I was trying to get mom to hush and wasn’t looking. After we started walking again, the excitement of what just happened caught up with me and I had to do some zoomies. Humans have zoomies, too, but it’s only one zoom and it’s on the computer. Doesn’t seem like it’s as much fun as my kind of zoomies, but humans are funny like that and I don’t like to judge.
I’m out of time right now, but next week I’m going to tell you about all my tricks to being the best good boy ever!