One of the advantages of owning our cadaver dog, Gonçalo, is the opportunity to evaluate his senses. Touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. Here is a summary of my findings to date.
There are many situations in which touch is important to Gonçalo. He likes to sleep overnight with myself or my better half, in physical contact with whichever one he picks. Last night he picked me, after I had gone to sleep, so I awoke in the night to realise that the lump on my bed meant he had snuggled up against me.
He likes our family, when they come to visit us. That also means physical contact. He enjoys getting a cuddle with his paws on the person’s shoulders in face-to-face mode.
Despite this and other examples, I would rate touch as the least important (to him) of Gonçalo’s 5 senses.
This is an odd one, because Cocker Spaniels were bred to be gun dogs. Gonçalo dislikes sharp bangs but ignores pretty much everything else. I know from the sound when someone goes out of the house in a vehicle, and that a similar sound means they are returning. Gonçalo shows no interest in such sounds.
He does like it when I say “walkies”, so much so that my partner and I have coded conversations about whether it is time for him to go out for another adventure. My better half also speaks to him as if he is a small child, and he enjoys the attention.
But in general, he pays little attention to the sounds of the neighbourhood, including the many barking dogs.
Gonçalo pays limited attention to this part of his universe. When we visited Olhão about a month ago, he did spend some of the journey time looking at the scenery, but not a lot. And there was an incident on the day we were to return home, when he was on his early morning walky. Gonçalo was approached by two neighbouring dogs. I saw them coming from a fair distance away. They saw Gonçalo around the same time, and decide to say hello. Gonçalo continued completely unaware of them until they were very close indeed.
This seems to be slightly more important to our cadaver dog. When he first came to us, I read up on a book devoted to Cocker Spaniels, and although different breeders use different kinds, the majority of Cocker Spaniel breeders fed the dogs exclusively on kibble. Kibble is dog biscuit in the form of small pellets. I checked on the ingredient list, and it is far more nutritious than the phrase “dog biscuits” suggests.
So for a long time, Gonçalo was fed solely on kibble at meal times, with a few dog treats, plus the occasional small piece of what we humans were eating. After about 6 months of this high-kibble fare, Gonçalo started turning his nose up at it. He would only eat it when he got really hungry.
And so it was that I started developing Gonçalo’s Gourmet Guide, 101 Meals to Feed Your Cocker Spaniel. Gonçalo’s favourite at the moment is kibble with scrambled egg. However, he also likes his kibble with roast pork, steak, chicken or fish.
This begs a question. How does one train a cadaver dog if the dog has been fed nearly everything, (barring human meat)?
Taste seems to be the second most important sense for Gonçalo, out of the five.
This is by far the most dominant of Gonçalo’s senses. Let me give you only two examples.
When I take him out for a walky in the campo, Gonçalo spends nearly all his time with his nose down, smelling whatever it is that he scents.
While in our home, we have a open plan kitchen – dining room, which means it is a major source of delicious smells. I cook all sorts of food for Gonçalo, to vary his diet. He gets eggs, fish, chicken, pork and beef. But his meals are always completely bland. I do not ad any salt, pepper, herbs or spices. Whereas when I cook for us, there is garlic, chillis and a whole host of other flavours and aromatics. Gonçalo happily eats his own food, but he then wants the super-smelly human version.
I need to be clear on this. I have checked on all of Gonçalo’s senses, and he has no defects in any.
I have also checked on the ability of dogs, in general, to smell. Despite popular belief, scientific research shows dogs do NOT have a superior ability to smell than me.
It is simply a case of whatever sense is given primacy. I pay more attention to visual and auditory stimuli. Gonçalo focusses on smell.
That explains the tale of the two dogs that approached us in Olhão. I could see them coming. Gonçalo was head-down, engrossed in sniffing the terrain.
It begs the question as to whether blind people put more faith in smells than I do.
The dog on the left is Muzzy. The dog on the right is Tito. These took part in the June 2014 Operation Grange dig of central Luz. They were part of South Wales police. I have not established what their precise purpose was i.e. why it was felt there was a need for two Springer Spaniels. However, it obviously took time, effort and money to get two dogs + handlers from South Wales to Luz to take part in the operation. I remember the female police officer, but I cannot say anything about the male policeman, because he did not register.
So there you have it. My cadaver dog, Gonçalo, spends most of his time outside, when we are alone, with his head close to the ground, sniffing at whatever scent intrigues him the most