Every year, on August 26th, we celebrate International Dog Day—a day dedicated to honouring and appreciating our loyal companions. Our furry friends have an uncanny ability to brighten our lives, offering unconditional love and unwavering loyalty, but they also have an astonishing number of superpowers, from their exceptional senses to their incredible empathy.
Sensational sense of smell
While humans have about 5 million scent receptors, a dog’s nose can possess up to 300 million. The InSitu Foundation, which trains medical scent detection dogs, uses a great analogy to explain just how amazing a dog’s nose is “When making the analogy to human vision, what you and I can see at 1/3 of a mile, a dog could see at more than 3,000 miles away, and see just as clearly”.
This remarkable sense of smell has long made dogs invaluable for tasks like search and rescue operations, and tracking. Their ‘built-in GPS system’ also means they can follow their own scent and find their way home, even over long distances. However, it’s a dog’s ability to detect volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the human body, which includes diseases like cancer, that really makes them superhero medical detectives!
Did you know? As part of a 2006 clinical trial, dogs trained at the InSitu Foundation were able to detect lung cancer with 97% accuracy and breast cancer with 88% accuracy, just by sniffing breath samples from patients. Astonishingly this is a higher rate of accuracy than with needle biopsies.
Acute hearing sense
Dogs’ acute sense of hearing is another astonishing superpower. While humans can hear sounds within the range of 20 to 20,000 Hz (vibrations per second), dogs can hear sounds up to an astounding 60,000 Hz. Plus, with about 18 ear muscles, they can rotate, tilt, and raise their ears to get an amplified sound.
Did you know? As dogs can hear much lower frequencies than humans, they can often hear the far-off thunder or earthquake rumbles which indicate an approaching storm or bad weather. Researchers believe that a dog’s storm-tracking abilities are also partly due to their sensitivity to drops in barometric pressure.
Dogs have a specialized layer in their eyes called the tapetum lucidum, which enhances their night vision by reflecting light back through the retina. This gives them a higher sensitivity to low light conditions, and they can see in light that’s five times dimmer than what we humans need to see clearly. Their night vision is a superpower that we can trace back to their wolf ancestors, allowing them to hunt and move stealthily under the cover of darkness.
Dogs are renowned for their agility and speed. On average they can reach speeds of 19 miles per hour (mph), but some breeds, such as Greyhounds, can reach impressive speeds of up to 45 mph. To compare, the fastest humans can only run at 28 mph.
Did you know? A Greyhound could beat a cheetah in a race. Cheetahs can only maintain their top speed of 70mph for about thirty seconds, whilst a Greyhound can run at 35 mph for about seven miles. The cheetah may start out first, but the Greyhound would soon overtake them.
One of the most endearing and often overlooked superpowers of dogs is their incredible capacity for empathy. Dogs are highly attuned to human emotions and can sense shifts in mood and emotional states. They offer comfort and companionship during times of distress, showcasing a remarkable ability to understand and respond to our feelings.
Did you know? Researchers at Goldsmiths College in London undertook a study involving 18 dogs. In this study, each dog watched as their owner and a stranger sat across from each other, taking it in turns to engage in regular conversation, humming in an unusual manner, and feigning crying. Unsurprisingly the dogs responded to their owner’s distress and tried to comfort them, but the dogs also offered comfort to the crying strangers as well, despite having no connection with them.
However, even our superpowered canine friends need some help to stay fit and healthy. Click here to explore our pet health & wellbeing range, which features many areas that are important to ensuring that dogs lead a happy and healthy lifestyle.
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