There’s something undeniably charming about watching a puppy discover the brand-new world. It usually involves some tumbles, tail-wagging confusion, and endless sniffing around. Watching them explore is an amusing source of entertainment, but it also raises some questions. You can’t help wondering what’s going on in that adorable puppy brain as they process everything around them.

With that in mind, let’s look at how puppies use the senses available to them to navigate the world.


Smell is first on the list for a reason. Of all the senses, puppies rely on smell the most intensely. Considering how much of their lives seems to be dedicated to sniffing people, fire hydrants, plants, and just about everything else, this probably comes as no surprise. Dogs can detect smells at least 100 times better than people can. In some cases, they can smell 100,000 times better. The part of the brain responsible for processing scents is much larger in a dog than a human. We have around five million smell receptors in our noses, whereas dogs have approximately three hundred million.

Having such a strong sense of smell allows dogs to gain information about other people and animals, even at a distance. Your new puppy will recognize you by scent before anything else, including sight.


When it comes to hearing, dogs have us beat there as well. In addition to hearing sounds better, they can hear a wider range of frequencies. We can hear between 20-20,000 Hz, while dogs are in the 40-60,000 Hz range. With this gift of hearing, it’s no wonder puppies become easily overwhelmed by sudden sounds and noisy places. If it’s loud to you, imagine how it sounds to your canine pal. A dog’s superior ability to hear also extends to distance. Your puppy will probably hear far-off sounds that you miss. If you ever wonder why your pup suddenly looks off into the distance, now you may know why.

Puppies are actually born deaf, but by the time they are a month old, they already hear better than most people can. One similarity we do share with dogs is that we all tend to lose our hearing as we age. Many senior dogs eventually lose their sense of hearing to the point that they go deaf.


Many people mistakenly believe that dogs are completely colorblind. In reality, they just see a smaller variety of colors. Unable to see red and green, dogs mostly see a combination of yellows and blues.Much of the world will be somewhere in between, a shade of grey. Keep this in mind when choosing colorful toys for your pup. Dogs are much better at seeing things in the dark than people. This explains why dogs sometimes stare intently at something we can’t see during nighttime.However, we’re able to see specific details better. Dogs see everything a little blurrier in comparison. Since dogs rely heavily on scents, they don’t need to see with the same complexity.

Have you ever been sitting in a park with your puppy and they suddenly take off in a beeline towards something unknown? This is unexpected for us because we are not as sensitive to movement. Dogs notice movement, especially ground-level action, instantly.


Anyone who’s ever had a dog can attest to the fact that their palates are not exactly sophisticated. Though they can taste sweet, salty, sour, and bitter flavors, they have far fewer taste buds than we do.Taste is less important to a dog than smell. If a dog loves the smell of a particular food, chances are good that it will get eaten. Similarly, rancid-smelling food will likely be rejected. This trait has served dogs well when they’ve come across food that’s gone bad and decided not to eat it because the smell was “off.” If you’ve ever witnessed a dog lapping up a bowl of water like it’s the best thing they’ve ever tasted, you’ll be interested to know that they actually have taste buds for water.

Located at the tip of the tongue, these taste buds become extra sensitive after a dog eats something sugary or salty.

Knowledge is Power

Understanding how your puppy takes in information is valuable for you as a dog owner. This knowledge can help you during training as well as in everyday life.

When you know how dogs process the world, you can have compassion for their mistakes and a better idea of how to work with them successfully.