The senses are the windows through which we see and understand the world. Dogs’ superior senses of smell and hearing give them access to a world that is far different from our own.
Georgina, age 8, from Warrawee, New South Wales, wants to know, “How far away can dogs smell and hear?” Dr. Susan Hazel, a professor in the Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at Cornell University, has the scoop on animal behavior.
A receptor is a component of the nose that recognizes each distinct odor particle; dogs have much more of these receptors than humans do.
The canine nose is much larger and more efficient at channeling air than the human nose. If you observe a dog as it sniffs, you will witness this in action. Their sense of smell will be enhanced if they are exposed to a larger volume of air.
The range across which a dog can detect a scent is affected by factors such as temperature, humidity, wind speed, and direction. It is said that under ideal circumstances, they can detect the scent of an item or a person 20 kilometers away.
Maybe it may interest you to learn that dogs aren’t the only exceptional noses out there. Dogs are classified as carnivores on the scientific family tree. Cats, bears, and skunks are all examples of such animals.
Also, these creatures have superb olfactory abilities. Bears have excellent senses of smell, being among the greatest of any bear species. The polar bear’s sense of smell allows it to detect the seals it hunts from more than 30 kilometers away.
What would it be like to know that your closest friend was in the room next to you only by the aroma they gave off? Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply follow your nose to the spot in the cabinet where your parents had stashed your favorite chocolate biscuits?
A dog’s keen sense of smell makes it well-suited for the role of a detection dog, one of the most fascinating occupations in the animal kingdom.
Search and rescue organizations rely on detection dogs to assist them to locate lost people, locating illicit imports at airports, sniffing out narcotics and explosives, and tracking down wild animals.
Dogs are renowned as some of the most adept sniffer animals since they rely only on their sense of smell. Dogs in the home also take pleasure in olfactory games.
The fact that dogs like smelling things that humans find repulsive, like the bottoms of other dogs, may still be puzzling to you, given that canines have such an acute sense of smell. I’ll save that tale for another time.
Over the horizon
Having established that dogs have an impressive sense of smell, let’s discuss their hearing capabilities. How far can a dog hear anything, and what kind of sounds can they pick up? What follows is a discussion of sound frequencies, which are what dogs and all other animals (including humans) are sensitive to.
There are “waves” in sound. How often sound waves occur to one another is measured in hertz. The greater the frequency or pitch, the closer the waves are together. You may compare this to a beach when a storm is raging and the waves are crashing more often.
At low frequencies, dog and human hearing are comparable (around 20Hz). However, at higher frequencies, when canines can hear up to 70-100kHz while humans can only hear 20kHz, the tables turn. A dog’s hearing range is at least three times that of a human’s.
Have you ever pondered the science behind those mysterious, soundless dog whistles? They emit high-pitched noises that canines can pick up on but humans cannot. Due to their superior hearing, dogs are able to pick up on a wider range of noises than humans.
Sounds up to a kilometer distant, or even those that are louder, are audible to them. This implies that dogs may be more easily startled than humans by very loud noises. That’s why some canines become nervous if there’s a chance of loud noises, like fireworks or thunder. This is likewise the case when a dog starts barking at a sound you can’t identify.
The dog’s superior hearing is helped in part by the use of its ear muscles. More than a dozen muscles in a dog’s head and neck enable it to move its ears in a wide range of positions.
This aids canines in determining the origin of noises. It’s also a factor in why your dog would cock its head at strange noises. The movement of the dog’s ears to concentrate on a certain area is often reported as the first indication by police who deploy dogs that the dog has discovered a suspect.
Dogs’ keen hearing also benefits them in their secondary, equally fascinating role as service dogs. People who are disabled in some way, such as being blind or deaf, often rely on the services of assistance dogs.
Dogs, thanks to their acute hearing, may detect the approach of visitors or vehicles on a sidewalk. Dogs’ keen sense of hearing makes them useful companions for the disabled and elderly.
Learning about any animal is facilitated by using one’s imaginative faculties. And how do their senses compare to ours? Why does it encourage kids to see the world in a manner distinct from our own?
You asked a great question, Georgina, and we really hope you liked reading our responses.