Senses of the Dog – How do Dogs Experience the World Around Them?

Ever wondered if your dog experiences the world around him the same way as you do? Just like humans, dogs use the five senses: smell, sight, hearing, touch, and taste, to understand their surroundings. However, dogs use their senses very differently than us humans, and while the primary sense of humans is sight, for dogs this is smell. In this article, we will have a closer look at the five different senses, and what role they play in the daily lives of our dogs.


The primary sense of dogs is their sense of smell. With about one eighth of their brains being dedicated to smell, and around 300 million olfactory (smell) receptors, compared to the 5 million us humans have, their sense of smell is so precise it can even detect certain health issues in humans. A dog sees the world through their nose and uses smell in a way comparable to that we use our sight, and they need it to process the information about the world around them, from gathering information about territory, to the mood of the neighbourhood canines. Letting a dog use their primary sense, for example giving them the opportunity to sniff on walks, is important for their well-being



Dogs have an excellent sense of hearing, and can register 35,000 sound vibrations per second, compared to humans who register 20.000 per second. Their ears have 15 different muscles, making it possible for them to move in all directions. The way a dog’s ears are designed makes them able to gather more sound waves, and they are even able to shut off their inner ear to filter out distracting sounds. Dogs are able to hear sounds about four times further away than humans can. 



While the primary sense of humans is sight, dogs don’t nearly depend on it as much as we do. Due to the position of the eyes, their field of vision is wider than ours, but that also means they have more trouble focusing on objects at close range, as the field of vision of their eyes overlaps less. Due to this they might not always be able to identify what they see with their eyes. Dogs can see better in poor lighting conditions compared to humans due to an additional reflective layer in their eyes, but don’t see as well in bright light. While it was initially assumed dogs were colour blind, this is not the case. Dogs possess two types of cones in their eyes for colour perception, making them able to see the colours blue and yellow. Human eyes have three types of cones, making us able to see combinations of blue, red, and green. Dogs have a third eyelid, which is a membrane that protects the eyeball. This eyelid is usually not visible. 



Touch is an important sense for dogs, and directly after being born the mother dog will form an emotional bond with her pups, who are born blind and deaf, through touch. From all senses, the sense of touch is assumed to be the one most similar to humans. Dogs have five different types of touch receptors, which allow them to differentiate between the following different forms of touch: pressure(touch),, temperature, pain, body movement(position sense) and chemical stimulation.

An important part of the dogs sense of touch are the whiskers, also called vibrissae, which can be found above the eyes, on the muzzle, and below the jaw on the side of the muzzle. Whiskers are extremely sensitive to touch and can even sense changes in the airflow before touching the object. Whiskers should never be trimmed. 

Touch sensitivities vary from dog to dog, with the general sensitive areas being the head, muzzle, tail, abdomen, and paws. These are areas that dogs do not always like being touched. Another extremely sensitive area is along the dog’s spine and towards the tail, however most dogs like being touched in this area.



A human’s sense of taste is better developed than that of dogs, to compare, humans have about 9000 taste buds, dogs about 1700. Just like humans they can taste the five universally accepted basic tastes: sour, salt, bitter, sweet and umami. However, they have additional taste buds geared towards water that we humans don’t have. These special taste buds are most sensitive after eating salty and sugary foods, making it more inviting for dogs to drink water after eating salty food to flush the salt out of the body. These special taste buds are found in the tip of the tongue, where the tongue curls to lap up water.



Dogs don’t use their senses the same way as we do, and we should keep that in mind when interacting with them. By being aware of the differences, we can provide them with the care they need and ensure they lead happy and fulfilling lives. 

Would you like to know more about our pet care services? Feel free to contact us, we will be happy to help.

        Paw Pals Relocation Request Form

        Cat Details

        Please enter your estimated travel date

        Dog Details

        Please enter your estimated travel date

        Travel Carrier

        Please enter the size of your Travel Carrier in centimetres

        Pet Dimensions

        Please measure your pet in centimetres

        A Value = Length of the pet from the tip of nose to the root of the tail

        B Value = Height from the ground to the top of the leg or elbow joint

        C Value = Width across right and left shoulders

        D Value = Height of the pet in their natural standing position from the ground to the top of the head or the tip of the ear in erect ear breeds (for a cat you might find it easier to measure the height whilst the cat is sitting with their head erect)

        Please note: We do advise that one of our specialists visits your home to measure your pet, as small differences in dimensions can have a significant impact on the cost.