Thursday 15 September 2022

Sight and scent are strongly connected for dogs

A new study has discovered that dogs have an extensive pathway in their brains that enable them to 'see' as well as sniff with their highly-developed sense of smell.

Scientists in Cornell University, New York, found that sight and scent is integrated in dogs, to the point where even blind dogs can function extremely well by navigating their environment by smell.

All dog owners know how much dogs like to sniff, and navigate their way around by their nose. This new research, carried out on 23 dogs of various breeds, revealed through MRI scans that big neural pathways, or “information highways” exist between the olfactory part of the brain (responsible for interpreting the scents from the nose) and the part of the brain tied to vision. This pathway that links smell to vision isn’t found in people but is “thick and obvious” in the dog’s brain.

This appears to confirm that in dogs, the sense of smell is so highly developed that seeing and smells are interlinked in a dog’s perception.

As humans we can only imagine what the world must be like for dogs. Everything must be ‘hyper-real’ with a scent to accompany all they see. As owners, we must respect the dog’s need to stop and sniff at every opportunity. Sniffing and storing information is an enriching experience for dogs, and we can only admire their sensory powers.

Humans do of course utilise dogs’ highly developed smelling skills for tracking, by training sniffer dogs to search out certain substances or to track missing people.

Sniffer dogs play a vital role at airports

This research is just starting, as the same team want to investigate cats’ link between scent and sight, as it is believed that cats have the same strong neural pathways as dogs. Watch (or sniff!) this space.