The Fascinating Design of Dogs

Growing up, we always had dogs for pets.

My dad’s last dog, Prince

My dad’s last dog, Prince

My dad’s first dog was a mongrel called Brownie. He died before I was born, but from the stories we were told, he was a smart dog and much-loved.

The first dogs I remember, who’d been with the family before I was born, were a German Shepherd (my dad’s favourite breed) called Prince, and a little Pomeranian, Fluffy. Years later, we also had a Dachshund; he’d been a gift for my dad, and we called him Rex.

After the original Prince, we had two more German Shepherds – King and another Prince.

That second Prince, my dad’s last dog, was the only one who had formal training. There were times he was a bit like a mischievous toddler at school, but, for the most part, he took to the training really well. My dad was the only one who took him through his paces and the only one Prince really paid attention to, the only one he obeyed without hesitation. Mind you, my dad not only had a commanding presence, he had a ‘don’t-mess-with-me’ voice to go with it.

My dad and Prince

My dad and Prince

I’ve always been interested in learning about animals, but never pursued it formally because I didn’t have good enough grades. Recently, I’ve come across more and more articles delving deeper into the canine physical structure.

The articles I’ve linked to are by Marc Bekoff, Ph.D. A professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, he co-founded Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals with Dame Jane Goodall.

Professor Bekoff has written articles, published in Psychology Today, covering the dog’s 5 senses, starting with the sense of smell.

In ‘Dogs Should be “Unleashed” to Sniff to Their Noses’ Content’, he quotes Norwegian dog nose expert, Dr Frank Rosell:
With 300 million receptors to our mere 5 million, a dog’s nose is estimated to be between 100,000 and 100 million times more sensitive than a human’s.” (‘Secrets of the Snout: The Dog’s Incredible Nose’)

Not only is a dog’s sense of smell superior to ours, “the section of a dog’s brain related to processing smells is almost seven times larger than ours”!

The part where Professor Bekoff explains their amazing sense of smell – dogs don’t exhale when sniffing a faint scent! – makes for riveting reading.

In fact, reading about the dog’s sense of taste, touch, sight and hearing is so interesting. They are remarkably well-designed creatures.

To finish, here’s another eye-opening article, this time Professor Bekoff’s interview with Dr Gregory Berns who, in his book, ‘What It’s Like to Be a Dog: And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience’, shows the striking similarities in the way animals’ brains function, and that includes humans.