Lesson Plan – The Senses (How a Dog’s Senses Compares to Ours)

ASPCA, Humane Education

Lesson Plan – The Senses
How a Dog’s Senses Compares to Ours

Topic: The Senses: How a dog’s senses compares to ours.

Grade Level: K-3

Setting: Classroom

Time: 10 minutes for discussion. 30 minutes for writing

Objective: Children will gain an appreciation of the ways in which a dog’s senses differs from their own. (Note: this lesson may be combined with What Every Dog Needs or Dog Bite Prevention.)

Procedure: The following are quiet exercises designed to actively show how a dog’s world is different from ours. Because of their quiet focused nature they serve to calm even the most restless children and focus the whole group.

“Everybody close your eyes and listen very carefully. Can you hear the people in the hall?” (Use whatever is the clearest sound audible to all in the room)

“Can you hear the sound of your breathing?” (Use an example of less audible sounds i.e., the movement of people in the room)

“Can you hear the sound of my breathing? The sound of a person walking outside of the building?” (Ask about implied sounds that they can not hear but they know exist e.g., people talking on the street, a fly buzzing on the ceiling)

“Open your eyes. A dog can! Dogs can hear much better than we can. They can even hear sounds we only know exist by using scientific (special) equipment!”

“Close your eyes again. Now, take a deep breath through your nose. Can you smell the air freshener/floor cleaner?” (Use whatever scent is most prominent in the room)

“Can you smell the soap you washed your clothes in?” (Use a scent readily apparent but subtle)

“Can you smell the soap I washed my clothes in? Can you smell the peanut butter sandwich in my bag?” (Use scents that cannot be smelled from a distance)

“Open your eyes. A dog can! Dogs have an incredibly good sense of smell. Did you know a dog could smell the footprints of the last person that walked across the floor (three days ago!)? A dog’s ability to distinguish and detect smells that we can’t smell at all is so unique that we are still not able to copy it with machines/scientific instruments. A scientist took one drop of scent and mixed it with 400,000 drops of water and the dog was still able to identify it. That is like putting a spoonful of sugar in a pond of water and having it still taste sweet.”

“Close your eyes really tight. Open them up just a little so that you are peeking through your eyelashes. What do you see?”

“Everything is sort of blurry isn’t it. This is about as close as we can get to experience how dogs see. Not very good, is it! Now, take your hand and move it very fast in front of your face. You can see the movement pretty fast, but you can’t really see your hand very clearly. Neither can a dog! What dogs can’t see in detail (clearly) they make up for in being able to spot movement much better than we can.”

“Why do you think dogs see movement so well? Think about how dogs survived before they became domesticated. What did they eat and how did they get it? Dogs needed to spot movement to hunt for food they would see their prey move and chase and catch it. Dogs also needed to see movement to protect themselves and their young from other predators (hunters) in the wild.”

“Even though domestic (pet) dogs have been companions to people for thousands of years most dogs have never lost the urge to chase things that move quickly and may even bite at things as the move, including people.”

“What we are going to do now is very simple as a matter of fact it is the shortest part of this program. BUT it’s probably the most important part. Think for a moment about a time when a little brother and sister or friend may have played too rough or maybe a time when fell or stubbed your toe, etc. OUCH! Remember, the one sense that is the same between dogs and people is the sense of touch, so if it hurts you – it hurts a dog.”

Teacher’s Note: Dogs vary widely from breed to breed regarding touch sensitivity. Some breeds are relatively touch insensitive while others are extremely touch insensitive.

Writing Exercise:
Now that your students are more aware of the differences in sensory ability between dogs and humans, ask them to write an essay about how a dog’s sensory experience of an environment of their choice would differ from their own.

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