This time of year is most enjoyable for walking my dogs. Just enough warmth to wear a jumper and scarf, but not so wet and cold that we become the bundled-up Hobbits most dog owners transform into over the winter months.
As the hot sun (well, what we get in this country) fades and golden leaves appear, walks are beautiful as the trees blaze with reds and oranges. Do our dogs appreciate all this, too?
Our dogs seem to enjoy the extra earthy smells that the damper ground offers. The dew lasts longer and our walks might be at dawn or dusk this season.
Dogs vision is particularly attuned to low light conditions. Where we may squint to see where we are going, our dogs can happily trot along without fear of bumping into trees or falling into dips in the ground. Their keen hearing and sense of smell helps them, but as dogs evolved to hunt during the crepuscular hours (early/late) they really can see much more detail at these times. They probably wonder why we are taking so long!
Bright sunlight is a different matter of course, and hopefully our beautiful Autumn leaf colours will last. Our dogs will not appreciate these bright shades of reddish-brown, however. Dogs can see colour, but they only have two kinds of colour detecting cones; similar to a person with red-green colour blindness. This means they will see a range of yellows, blues and a great many shades of grey (not just fifty)!
Next time you have thrown your dog’s red toy into green grass, don’t be surprised if he runs straight past it, using his nose to track back to where it landed.
‘How come’, you ask, ‘my dog can still spot a squirrel dashing through Autumn leaves at 100 feet away, but can’t see his own toy sitting plainly on top of them when I have thrown it?’ This is because dogs can detect motion far better and at much further distances than we can. Some dogs were deliberately bred together and enhanced with this ability meaning their eyes contain a specific visual streak enabling motion detection. Any long-nosed breed is more likely to have this visual set-up.
Conversely, a short-nosed dog such as a Pug or French Bulldog has a different visual configuration, meaning they are more likely to be good at close-up focus. They may still play with toys and chase, but their vision is just not designed for this. They are also a lot closer to the ground on their little sturdy legs. A huge difference to the slender sight hound.
Autumn scent is powerfully interesting as leaves pile up, so be vigilant for hidden creatures on walks and in your garden. Never let your dog bother a poor prickly hedgehog. I recall my Collie doing such a thing and proudly presenting his face to me for a kiss… until I noticed it was absolutely black with fleas.
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