The fact that dogs can dream shouldn’t come as a surprise to retriever owners who have seen their dogs whimper, twitch, and move around in their sleep. Determining what dogs actually dream about is a more complicated matter, but recent research seems to indicate that, like people, they tend to recall memories of events they experienced while awake. This means that retrievers are probably “fetching” mallards in perhaps their most lucid dreams.
The normal body temperature for a dog ranges from 100°F to 102.5°F. Fur insulates a retriever’s body in cold weather and helps slow heat absorption in warm weather. Although dogs do sweat through their paw pads and nose, they regulate body temperature primarily by panting. Always keep in mind that the risk of hypothermia and heat stroke are very real when your retriever is outdoors in extreme conditions.
Mental sharpness varies greatly from breed to breed, and even from dog to dog. In fact, pups from the same litter may exhibit different learning abilities. Some dogs are inherently smarter than others. Studies have shown that intelligent dogs can learn the meaning of up to 250 words. Average dogs are capable of understanding about 150 words.
Your retriever can read your mood just by looking at your facial expressions and body language. Over time, he or she will learn to sense when you are happy, sad, and angry. The flipside of this is our tendency to attribute human emotions to dogs. For example, when you chastise your retriever for digging in the yard, he may put his head down or look away. The dog is probably reacting more to your tone and body language than out of a sense of guilt or shame.
Dogs generally have a much better hearing range than humans. A dog’s ears include at least 18 muscles, while ours have only nine. Dogs can therefore rotate and tilt their ears, which allows them to more easily locate the exact source of a sound. In addition, they perceive almost twice the frequencies we do. This explains why dogs can hear high-frequency whistles that are soundless to us. If your retriever is afraid of your lawn mower or weed whacker, it’s probably because the dog is bothered by the sound, not the motion. Thunderstorms can also be troublesome.
A dog’s scenting ability is truly remarkable. The noses of some breeds have more than 200 million scent receptors, which is about 40 times the number humans have. This isn’t surprising considering that a dog also dedicates about 40 times more of its brain to the process of smelling than we do. No wonder our retrievers continually amaze us when they locate fallen waterfowl in heavy cover.
Contrary to popular opinion, dogs are not color blind. The old notion that they can see only black and white is incorrect. The canine color field may be limited in comparison to ours, but dogs can perceive gradations of yellow, blue, and gray. They can’t, however, distinguish red, green, and orange colors, as humans do. That’s because the human eye contains three types of cones, while the canine eye has only two. As predators, however, dogs are equipped with superior night vision and are also much more capable of tracking motion than we are.