Category Archives: dog behavior

Why Do Dogs Have Slits on Each Side of Their Nose?

dog nose kathleenBy Linda Cole

My dogs know before I put them outside if there is an animal near their dog pen, even in the winter with the windows down. By the time they get outside, they’ve already pinpointed the area where a cat, possum or other small animal is. A dog’s nose is amazing. Everything about a dog’s nose is designed to give him a sort of “super power” when it comes to smelling. Even the slits on each side of their nose have a specific function.

Every time a dog breathes, he pulls in smells. The canine sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times better than ours. James Walker, former director of the Florida State University Sensory Research Institute, came up with a good visual to explain the difference between our sense of smell compared to a dog. “If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away and still see as well,” he said.

Another way to grasp the power of a dog’s nose is to imagine two million barrels of apples sitting in a warehouse. A dog could walk in and detect the one rotten apple hiding among all the others. Once a dog has been trained to detect a specific scent, such as drugs, bedbugs, cancer or low blood sugar, he can find it regardless of other scents around him. One reason why canines can isolate a scent is due to the slits on each side of their nose.

Compared to our ability to distinguish between 4,000-10,000 different smells, dogs can process 30,000-100,000 scents. Because they use scent more than the other senses to navigate through their world, the amount of brain power devoted to their sense of smell is 40 times greater than ours. As a dog inhales, the air is separated and splits into two different paths. One path takes about 12% of air to the back of the nose for scent analysis, and the rest passes through that area and goes to the lungs.

dog nose marcoThe air that stays at the back of the nose is filtered through a maze of ruffle-like bony structures called turbinates that sift out odor molecules according to their chemical makeup. Olfactory receptors in the tissue of the turbinates then recognize an odor based on their shape, and send impulses to the brain to process.

The slits on each side of the nose give dogs the ability to have a constant stream of air that can span many respiratory cycles. When we inhale and exhale, the air goes out the same way it came in and any odors that entered are forced out along with the air. In dogs, exhaled air goes out through the slits and the swirling motion of air helps new odors enter the nose. This makes it possible for a dog searching for smells to have a steady stream of air coming in for up to 40 seconds, and maybe even longer.

The slits also allow dogs to wiggle each nostril independently, and give them the ability to know which nostril a smell entered. This is how a dog can pinpoint where a smell is coming from, and why a canine searching for smells on the ground will weave back and forth as he follows a trail.

At the bottom of the canine throat is a second structure found in cats and other mammals: the Jacobson’s organ, which is used to pick up pheromones. The smells it detects are sent to a part of the brain that’s devoted to only analyzing the pheromone molecules it picks up. It lets dogs smell and taste the scent. If you’ve ever seen your dog sniffing with his mouth open in a sort of grin, he’s having a Flehman Reaction and catching a whiff of a female in heat or sniffing urine left by another dog.

dog nose ann-dabneyOnce a dog has learned a scent, he can remember it for a long time. Certain dog breeds like the Bloodhound and Basset Hound have some added features that increase their scenting ability. Their long ears help sweep up smells from the ground, and loose skin around the chin traps scents.

The slits in a dog’s nose enhance their sniffing ability so they can follow prey, locate someone lost in the woods or buried under snow, and root out their CANIDAE treats no matter where you hide them. When you see your dog with his wiggling nose in the wind, you can bet he’s savoring every bit of information that’s riding in the breeze. That’s a pretty remarkable feat when you think about it!

Top photo by Kathleen Tyler Conklin
Middle photo by Marco
Bottom photo by ann-dabney

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What is Fly-Snapping Syndrome?

Langley's dog fly snapBy Langley Cornwell

I wanted to write this article because one of our pups has developed a new tic. At first we thought it was just another oddity specific to him, but when I researched the characteristics of his new tic, I discovered it was a real syndrome: Fly-Snapping Syndrome.

There are times when we are all relaxing in the family room and suddenly Big Al will repeatedly snap at the air as if a swarm of insects are flying around his head. He seems to focus his eyes on the area right in front of his face, and move his head around as if he’s looking at flies, even though nothing is there. Then he’ll often become fixated on staring at his front legs, as if he expects to find something crawling on them. He may start licking his front legs, and then go back to staring into space and snapping at imaginary flies. Our dog’s episodes of snapping at invisible insects can be infrequent, or can occur repeatedly throughout the day.

What are Compulsive Behaviors?

Fly-Snapping (also called fly-biting) is one of many compulsive behaviors that dogs commonly display. Other compulsive behaviors include tail chasing, spinning, pacing, toy fixation, shadow or light chasing, repeated licking, chewing or scratching, flank sucking, excessive water drinking and nonstop barking. Some dogs display compulsive behaviors over and over to the point where the behaviors interfere with their normal lives.

Compulsive canine behaviors include any repetitive actions that dogs perform unprompted. Normal dogs may engage in similar activities, but they usually do so in response to specific triggers and not compulsively.

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Tips to Curb Puppy Biting and Aggression

puppy biting airbeagleBy Langley Cornwell

Puppies are curious. Much like infants, they spend a lot of time and energy  investigating the world around them via their mouths. When they are small, it’s fairly easy to dodge the needle-sharp teeth. Some people even think it’s cute when a puppy gets all mouthy. It may be cute in puppies but make no mistake about it; you need to stop these early signs of aggression before that innocent little puppy grows into an adult dog, or you will regret it.

This mouthy behavior starts early. In the litter, puppies bite in a playful way to establish hierarchy. They snap and nip each other to test their strength and assert their dominance. When they are weaned from their mother and separated from their litter mates, it’s natural for puppies to take this behavior with them. So when you’re cuddling and cooing over the newest member of your household, beware – you may get a sharp nip on the tip of your nose.

While the biting may seem harmless, it can escalate into real aggression as the puppy becomes bolder. That’s why it’s necessary to teach your dog to curb this behavior early on. Here are some tips and tricks that will help.

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A Day in the Life of Neela, a Desert Dog Living in Baja

neela guest blogHello! I am Neela Bear. A few months ago, Mommy packed up my dog bowls, my blanket, my leashes, my toys, and… oh yeah, a bunch of boxes of her things. She stuffed the car really full. Even the top of my big crate was covered with stuff. She brought along some of my very favorite treats, the CANIDAE PURE Heaven Biscuits with sweet potato and salmon, and gave them to me on the long drive when I was being good. I was very good.

We drove so far. It is really different here in our new home than where we were before. It is hot. I mean really  hot. I have to pant a lot when we are outside. Mommy calls this place the desert. There is no green cool grass here, just brown stuff called sand.

The landscape is covered with prickly plants, and so much sand that is fun to dig in. I tried to chew one of the prickly plants, but it poked my mouth. I was okay, but now if one pokes me I growl at it. Once in a while I still try to eat one.

Sometimes when I go out in the morning, this bird likes to chatter at me from a tall cactus in our yard. It’s called a saguaro, but this one is dead and brown. It doesn’t have any pricklers like the green ones. The big bird sits way up high on it where I can’t reach her. I watch her very carefully, in case she finally decides to come closer for a visit. Mostly she just caws at me really loudly.

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Do Our Pets “Mirror” Aspects of Ourselves?

mirrors jennie faberBy Julia Williams

There is a popular metaphysical concept that goes something like this: every person in our life is a mirror, i.e., they reflect back to us some aspect of our “self” that will help us grow as human beings. The theory is that everyone we meet gives us the opportunity to see who we are with greater clarity, much like holding up a mirror and gazing at our reflection. Further, it’s said that the attributes in others that bug us the most are the areas within our own lives that need the most work.

Whether it’s true or not is anybody’s guess. The thing about a concept like this is that science can’t prove or disprove it, so we can either choose to believe…or not. Personally, I’m inclined to think there’s some truth to the concept.

It got me to thinking. If every person offers this learning experience, this opportunity to really understand who we are, then what about other living beings in our lives – our pets? Many of us are as close to our pets as we are to other humans. It stands to reason that every being we allow into our lives could offer this potential for personal growth. And as with humans, could it be that the pets who are particularly challenging are the ones who offer us the clearest mirror to our own flaws?

Take my cat Rocky, for example. I love him to the moon and back, but he has one habit that annoys me greatly. He is food obsessed, and he thinks nothing of making a grab for whatever is on my plate – while I am in the middle of eating it, no less – or jumping onto the kitchen counter to eat his CANIDAE food before I can finish dishing it into his bowl. (Trust me, it’s impossible to put cat food in a dish with his fluffy face in the way). It would seem that he has no control over these food-related urges.
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Do Dogs Like Being Petted by Strangers?

petting tony fischerBy Linda Cole

Touch is an important aspect in our relationship with dogs. My dog, Keikei, enjoys a good massage and one of her sweet spots is at the base of her tail. Most dogs enjoy having this area petted, but what relaxes her completely is when I lay my hand on one of her ears and slowly and gently move my hand down her ear and along the side of her face. This is not something she allows anyone else to do. We can usually get away with touching areas on our own dogs that someone unfamiliar to the dog couldn’t.

The bond we share with our dogs is an emotional tie. It’s an investment of trust earned through positive interactions, understanding and commitment. It’s not an accident when your dog puts his paw on your leg, jumps up to greet you, or wants to cuddle next to you. Touch is an important part of the bond. My dog likes to back up to my legs, especially when I’m sitting outside with him. He faces away from me and slowly backs up until he’s touching me, then he sits down and leans on my legs. It’s his way of saying he feels safe and comfortable with me. Like us, dogs are social creatures and enjoy a gentle touch from the person they share a bond with.

A team of German researchers wanted to understand the emotional response dogs have when petted by an unfamiliar person. They enlisted the help of 28 dogs and strapped a heart monitor on each one to record their heart rate. The average age of the dogs was about five years. They were a mixture of different breeds, all were privately owned pets, and some had gone through obedience training while others had not. Each dog was tested individually in an office-like setting. The dog was in the room with his owner and an unfamiliar person. While the stranger interacted with the dog and touched him in nine different ways, his owner paid no attention to what was going on.

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