Develop Sensory Awareness

Your dog depends on her five senses to understand what's going on around her. Understand this and you'll understand your dog a lot better. As you read, keep reminding yourself that no matter how much you love your dog—and no matter how much she loves you—she is not human. Her worldview is different. Understanding how she discovers and explores things will help you be a better teacher.


Smell is your dog's strongest sense. It is many thousand times stronger than your own sense of smell. She depends on her nose to "see" what is around her. If you let your dog sniff a new object (like a brush, medicine, or a towel), she will be more comfortable with it. Also, let her sniff a new location, like your veterinarian's office or friend's home, before expecting her total attention.


Sight is not a dog's strongest sense. Dogs in general are nearsighted, seeing shapes and movements without distinction. However, your dog can see at night with nearly the same detail as her day vision.

Your dog will use her sense of smell to identify objects. When your dog sees an unfamiliar object, she may bark at it and seem cautious—she needs to smell it to feel comfortable with it.

Dogs are however, dependent on sight to interpret your interactions. Your dog will look to you for direction and focus on you when you give her a command.

Kneel down and look into your dog's eyes once a day with a warm stare. Wait until your dog looks away. If you meet a strange dog, don't look at it: doing so may signal a challenge, and she may attack you.

Learning to Speak Doglish chapter.


Your dog hears much better than you do and can hear sounds that you can't. Her sense of hearing helps your dog keep a tab on what's happening around her. It may be quiet in your home, and then suddenly your dog barks furiously. She has heard something and is alerting to the intrusion. Although you can teach your dog not to bark at every sound or to quiet down, barking is a normal response to unusual sounds.

Your dog will rely on her ears to learn directions from you, too. Never scream at a dog, as it is perceived as barking. If you do yell, you may notice your dog barking back at you or looking frightened. It's like you're a stereo on full blast.


When you touch a dog, it is understood in one of three ways:

• As loving and nurturing

Soft, loving pats will help calm your dog and put her at ease. Scratching or roughing her up will invite her to play, as she may think you're nipping her.

A dog's neck and throat are sensitive areas that can signal attack if grabbed suddenly or with force. If you pet a strange dog in either of these areas, she may think that you're challenging or going to attack her. Be careful.


Your dog's sense of taste is very bland. She doesn't chew food; she tears and gulps it. She also doesn't digest food as well as we do. Keep her diet consistent. Don't leave chocolate out where your dog might get into it: it is a toxic poison that could kill her.

Your dog cannot taste or digest the many foods that humans can. Keep her diet consistent and avoid foods that contain sugar.

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