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Puppies come stumbling into our lives full of exuberance, energy, and a wholehearted enthusiasm for life. It is natural that we wonder how they perceive the world, and if they see, hear, and smell differently than we do. We want to share their experiences. First, though, we need to understand how puppy senses work.

How Well Can Puppies See?

Humans rely heavily on sight, so of course we want to know if our dogs do, too. You may have heard the popularly held belief that dogs are color blind. This is not entirely true. Dogs’ eyes do not have as many cones responsible for color vision in their retinas as humans do, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual. Your puppy can see color, but we can safely conclude that he cannot see the same spectrum as we do.

Don’t worry, though. Your puppy is not missing out. Puppies might not see the same range of color as we do, but they certainly see better in the dark. Puppies have more rods in their eyes, which means that they see much better in dim light than we do. When it comes to detail, though, we still have the upper hand. Ever wonder why your puppy can’t always see the treat right in front of him, but can usually track a treat or toy you throw? This is because dogs are natural hunters. Their eyes have developed to detect movement, not fine details.

How Well Can Puppies Hear?

basset hound puppies

Puppies are born deaf, and they can’t hear until they’re about three weeks old. Once their hearing kicks in, though, they hear four times better than most people, making your dog’s hearing much more reliable than yours. You’ve probably noticed that your puppy can hear things that you can’t. You’ve seen her cock her head to one side and look off in the distance, long before the object or person comes into sight.

Dogs’ ears have much deeper canals than ours, which creates a better funnel for sound to carry down to their eardrums. Dogs with upright ears, like German Shepherd Dogs, use their ears almost like radar antennas, thanks to the 18 muscles they have in their ears that allow them to control the ear’s position and essentially “turn up the volume” on their hearing.

How Well Can Puppies Smell?

gordon setter puppies

Puppies might hear only four times better than humans, and their color vision might not be up to par, but when it comes to sense of smell, your puppy’s is far superior to yours. Your puppy’s sense of smell is approximately one million times more sensitive than yours. It is no wonder that we use dogs to sniff out explosives, drugs, and missing people, and this also explains why your puppy is able to smell where you hid the treats.

Puppies navigate by smell from the moment they are born, when their eyes are closed and their hearing has not developed. Your puppy even has a special organ on the roof of his mouth that allows him to “taste” certain smells. This is convenient, since dogs only have one-sixth of the taste buds that we do. So dogs use their sense of smell, rather than taste, to learn about their food.

Your puppy sees, hears, and smells the world differently than you do. This is part of what makes raising a puppy so exciting, and why humans have developed such a special relationship with our canine companions. Some breeds have more developed senses than others. Bloodhounds, for instance, have exceptionally powerful noses, while sight hounds like Greyhounds are better at spotting game. Learning as much as you can about your puppy’s senses is a great way to understand his needs and will help you become a more informed and responsible dog owner.
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What’s he thinking?

Dogs exhibit all sorts of bewildering, funny, and sometimes worrisome, quirky behaviors. Ever wonder what he's thinking and where the behaviors come from? Download this e-book to find out.
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