It has happened again. This time the story is being reported out of England. A canine genius named Pero recently traveled for 12 days from his home in Cockermouth to find his family in Penrhyncoch, Ceredigion. In total he covered a distance of 240 miles averaging around 20 miles per day.
How did he do it?
A combination of overlapping internal mapping mechanisms which include scent-mapping, sight-mapping, and geomagnetics all combine and overlay to form a comprehensive system of navigation.
In a recent study, researchers found that dogs prefer to use the bathroom while in north-south alignment with the Earth's axis. This ground-breaking study proves magnetic sensitivity in dogs. It is believed that this sensitivity is a vial component in navigation.
Geographic regions have scent profiles. Your neighborhood, for instance, smells differently than any other neighborhood. The combination of flora and fauna, its geological features, humidity levels, smells of particular businesses in the area, the types of dryer sheets used in the neighborhood, or even the type of concreted or asphalt used in the area all combine to give clues as to the location of home. Think about the millions of other scents that are unique to a given area.
When those scents are cross-referenced with internal magnetic compass headings, dogs can navigate to within the general locale of a residence. From there sight maps can be used to locate familiar structures in the area. Once they arrive in the area, all mapping systems work in unison to guide the dog back to an exact location.
Remember, however, that dogs are individuals, and as such not all dogs have these exceptional capabilities. Just like not all humans can navigate well. Some have skills in vastly different areas. As such, a dog who is great at navigation might be very poor at executing other feats outside of this expertise and vise versa.
The emerging field of canine cognitive science is only beginning to understand these neurological processes. But one thing is for certain, the worldview that dogs are dumb machines is a thing of the past. We should no longer view them as static things which learn only through overly-simplified, food-based conditioning regiments, but rather see them as capable of amazing intellectual feats that far exceed the abilities of most humans.
If you are interested in learning more about the cutting-edge of canine cognition, be sure to pick up a copy of Three Dimensional Dog, A Unified Theory of Canine Behavior. It is one of the first integrated canine philosophies ever created. It sees the mind and body of a dog as a unified system on a search for survival and connection. This theory blows the roof off of the old click-and-treat conditioning protocols whereby dogs are taught simple mechanical skills. Instead, it sees dogs as innovative, thinking, plotting, and creative creatures with a lust for life and a talent for planning and manipulation.
To learn more about this topic and canine cognition order the book Three Dimensional Dog, A Unified Theory of Canine Behavior, and learn to see dog behavior in a new way.
Aaron McDonald is a canine cognitive behaviorist, cognitive theorist, and author. He can be reached at www.ThreeDimensionalDog.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.