Dog Umwelt

By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT-FLE

Umwelt is pronounced o͝omvelt and is defined as the world as it is experienced by a particular organism. For the sake of this article, we will discuss the canine Umwelt or the world as it’s experienced by the dog. Why address this particular topic? Because you will vote on November 5th and I feel it’s important you know why you should not vote for the current mayor. 

The Dog’s experience of the World 
The dog experiences the world in a very different way when compared to humans. First, dog vision isn’t their go to sensory organ. I’m sure you already knew that, but most humans tend to forget because our Umwelt relies strongly on vision. Second, the dog’s sense of smell offers a dimension we cannot even begin to understand as people. Dogs can taste smells…. What?! Yes, dogs can taste odours through their vomeronasal organ located behind their incisor teeth on the upper jaw. Thirdly, dogs can hear high-pitched sounds much better than we can. In this way, dogs complement humans. 

You can see how different sensory intake modifies your perception of the world. Dogs cannot see red, yet for humans, red is an eye catching colour, which requires attention. What is obvious to you is imperceptible for your dog and vice versa. My dog can smell high cortisol levels in other dogs (and people) and will react strongly to the olfactory trigger. I, on the other hand, am left in total darkness. 

Emotional Umwelt 
Dogs experience emotions. That too, I’m sure you already knew. What you might not know is that dogs have a bigger limbic system or smaller frontal lobes, it depends on your point of view, which means dogs react very strongly to emotional triggers. I always say dogs don’t talk with flowers, they talk with teeth. When dogs are unhappy or scared, they want the negative experience to go away, and canines will do whatever it takes to make that happen NOW. The opposite is also true. When dogs experience joy, they will do whatever it takes to make the joyful event occur again. 

We, humans, tend to stay with our negative emotions for way too long. Some people repeatedly recite negative emotions throughout the day. The negative emotions should have been addressed while they occurred, not three days later. Plus, when we get upset, it takes all the energy we have to say stop, I don't like this , and when we finally do, we tend to sugar coat it. We are a strange species that way. I think we can take a few life lessons from dogs and deal with our emotions as they unravel. 

Why Vote Projet Montréal 
Why a political paragraph in a dog article? Because the current mayor has disrupted the dog Umwelt, and in doing so, has disrupted our experience of life too. When we make decisions about our lives, it’s important to keep Umwelt in mind. What do we want to experience as a collective humanity? What do we want for our dogs and cats? Why should you care about politics? The answer is simple because a world experienced by a collective group should be a positive one

My duty to my dog and myself is to demand our leaders care about us and all the experiences we chose to have within that collectivity. I think there’s room for public safety laws and dog ownership, regardless of the breed. When you hit the polls, and god knows I hope you do it in large numbers, consider Umwelt as your life experience, and how you can control the outcome through politics. If anything, look at all the unnecessary money spent, that alone should be a green light for change. This time around, I propose we try a woman as our leader. Valérie Plante, from Projet Montréal, is my choice because she cares about our and our dogs' Umwelt. If you don't know who Valérie Plante is, follow this link. I guarantee you, she will make Montréal the best experience of our collective world.


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