What's It Like To Be A Dog?

Whenever I head off to work in the morning, my dog hops up onto the arm of the couch I've placed near a window for her, so she can watch me leave. I imagine that she's wondering why I would ever leave the comfort of the bed and all its many snuggles for a day of who knows what in the human world. And I wonder what she does all day when I go to work.

Dog lying on floor looking up
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Even though I know her day is probably split between sleeping and barking at bicycles or anything else on wheels out the window, I know there's a little more going on in there. While science has yet to invent a way for me to swap bodies with her for the day, experts can tell us a little more about what's going inside our puppies' heads.

We've done a little digging, and we've got a pretty solid picture of what it's like inside a canine's brain, and how it's different from our brains. Here's how you might see the world if you were a dog.

You basically see with your nose.

Obviously, dogs have eyes and they can see, but their nose is so much stronger that they basically see the world through their nostrils. Dogs' noses are 10,000 to 100,000 more powerful than ours. To put that in perspective, that means bacon smells at least 10,000 times better to you as a dog than as a human.

In fact, as a dog, you would have such a strong sense of smell that, while you can't tell time, you can smell it. The world smells differently depending on what time of day it is, and dogs can tell the difference. So, as a dog, you may not be able to keep a 2 p.m. appointment, but you do know that it's the afternoon. And that means it's time for bacon.

Speaking of bacon, as a dog, you're probably motivated by food, but also love.

Most humans who have worked on dog training in the modern age know that it's all about positive reinforcement. We teach our dogs tricks and behaviors by motivating a pup with treats or praise, because dogs respond well to both of those motivators. According to various studies, dogs learned training commands fastest when they were rewarded with food. However, many also learned when they were rewarded with affection from their humans. So if you're a dog, you will work for food or love. Which, let's be honest, isn't that different from what motivates humans.

Glasses with forest, selected focus on lens,  colour blindness glasses
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You don't see in black and white, but your color spectrum is more limited.

It's a popular rumor that dogs see only in black and white, but that has been proven to not be true. Dogs' eyes don't see nearly as wide a spectrum of colors as we do. Basically, if you were a dog, you'd probably see like a human who is color blind. Dogs don't see reds and greens very strongly, and they aren't as sensitive to variation in grays. So when you're a dog, you won't see the bright red and green colors of a holiday sweater as well, but you will still see plenty of the colors in the world.

Watching TV can be really weird.

While dogs may not have as vibrant of color vision as we do, they actually see faster. Both of our brains process images in sort of a "snapshot" fashion. Humans see about 60 snapshots per second, but dogs see something more like 70-80. That means they usually have better vision when it comes to catching frisbees or chasing squirrels. However, it makes it much harder for them to watch TV.

If you've had dogs, you know that some dogs are very aware of the TV, and some don't even seem to see the images. And this is probably due to their vision or the speed of your TV. Televisions play back images at about 60-75Hz, which is about 60-75 "snapshots" of images per second. So while we see crisp, continuous images at 60Hz, dogs probably see something like a Real Housewife flip book when we're watching reality TV.

When you greet friends, you don't shake hands, you sniff butts.

When a human enters a party or social situation, they usually greet someone, say hello, maybe ask them how they've been. If you were a dog, you'd do all of that nonverbally by sniffing your friend's butt. Dogs can actually smell and communicate with chemicals that they smell through their nose and emit through the glands in their butts. But hey, as a dog, you get to cut through a lot of boring small talk and get to the meat of things. You may never have to awkwardly talk about the weather again!

You actually might hear worse than humans.

Popular wisdom always said that dogs can hear better than humans, but it turns out, that isn't necessarily true. While dogs can hear high frequencies that we can't, their hearing is actually less impressive than ours in a lot of ways.

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Cognitive scientist and psychologist Alexandra Horowitz explained to ABC News, "Yes, it's true dogs can hear a slightly higher pitch than we can. But they can't really use hearing to place where a sound is coming from, the way we humans do." That's why when your dog hears a sound, it often runs and looks around for the source. It can't hear that the doorbell on the television isn't in the same location as the doorbell at the door. Best to bark at both, just to be safe.

Honestly, experiencing the world as a dog doesn't sound that bad.

And we wonder if they feel the same way as living a day as a human. Although for now, maybe we just sticking to our usual roles will be best.