Dr. Julie Damron

3 minutes reading time (521 words)

Hidden forms of animal communication

Your dog or cat is in ongoing communication with a multitude of animals that he or she may never even see. Animals, especially dogs, have their own elaborate system of leaving messages for each other that go way beyond the boundaries of email. These are forms of communication that are not seen or heard. Humans may find the mediums and methodology that our pets utilize distasteful; but if we think about what our canines and felines are doing and why, it actually is very ingenious.

Animals explore their world using all 5 senses; but rely heavily on evaluating things with their noses and mouths. A dog's sense of smell is one to ten million times as powerful as a human, with certain breeds such as bloodhounds having the highest ability. This is the primary reason that dogs are utilized in search and rescue. Not only do they have a stronger sense of smell; but they are able to smell a scent for days, weeks, months, and longer even though the initial person or thing that left the scent is long gone.

Urine, feces, and other bodily secretions are also utilized to convey information. They are mainly used to identify boundaries or show ownership. Intact animals, especially males are very insistent about marking objects with urine. Sometimes people get tagged as well. When your pet goes to the bathroom, anal gland material is also released. These glands are located around the anus at the 4 and 8 o'clock positions. The material secreted is your pet's own personal scent, and is unique to them. It conveys to other animals that your dog or cat has been there. Dominant animals will mark over the scent of other animals, even if it means eating the feces of the other animal. Submissive animals will stay out of areas that others have marked as their territory. Females that have just given birth, will eat the placenta to remove the smell of the newborns.

Animals also use phermones as messengers. A phermone is a species specific chemical that acts like a hormone but works through scent receptors. They act outside of the body and do not circulate through the bloodstream. They are simply excreted or secreted to trigger a social response. They can communicate a warning, food, sexuality, or other information. Dogs, cats, and many other mammals have a special gland located at the roof of there mouth called the vomeronasal organ that is used to process phermones.

What smells good to us in terms of cologne is not what smells good to your pet. Canines and felines prefer to roll in the scent of a dead animal, and then pass this information on everywhere they go. Wild dogs that live in packs often use this technique to let other dogs know there is food available. Some behaviorists also think that that predators will do this to disguise their own scent, making it easier to attack their prey. It is fascinating the many ways our pets can speak to us without words. I believe we are at the very beginning stages of understanding how to listen to them.

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Sunday, 26 January 2020

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