Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Connor Barrett
Current Event

Hoffman, Jan. "Learning From Dogs as They Sniff Out Their World." The New York Times. N.p., 10 Oct. 2016. Web.

This article describes reasearch done at Barnard College and elsewhere in the sensory systems of dogs and how they influence their behavior. It turns out that most of a dog’s familiar behavior, like licking, sneezing, and tail wagging, are tied to their olfactory senses. Where humans have about 6 million olfactory receptors, dogs have 300 million, and where humans sniff about once per second, dogs sniff five to ten times. Not only this but the physical way that they exhale out the sides of their noses draws in air through the front, creating a continuous view of the world through smell. Licking is also related to smell in that dogs have a very sensitive vomeronasal organ (VNO) in the roof of their mouth that can pick up the smell of molecules that physically touch it. This means that when dogs lick something they are actually smelling it. In addition, there seems to be no noxious scent for dogs and when they find a very potent smell it signals the motor cortex and makes them lean into the smell. The result is that dogs love rolling around in things that smell bad to humans. Since dogs are so good at smelling it is another way for them to interact with each other. Dogs release scents that give other dogs insight to their mood through anal glands and they wag their tail in order to spread them. While it is healthy for dogs to act this way they are often discouraged from doing so by their owners and come to rely more on visual cues than olfactory ones. Humans can also strengthen their olfactory capabilities by doing what dogs do and taking deliberate sniffs of the world around them.
While the topic of this article will not have a profound affect on the human race, it still is interesting to dog owners and lovers and gives insight into the behaviour of another species, while also teaching us about humans. By understanding why dogs do what they do the connection between dog and owner can be strengthened and enhanced. This information could also help improve the smelling abilities of working dogs.
This article was fun and interesting to read and gave me insight into why my own dog behaves the way he does. The article has several strong points, it relays interesting information in a fun and easy to understand way. A weakness of it, however, could be its lack of more scientific information regarding the findings of the studies and how the studies were conducted. Because of this I would suggest an added paragraph about how the studies were conducted.

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