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Keys to Lost Dogs Finding Their Way Home

By Dognition
Dognition, a company that allows users to discover their dogs’ problem solving style through cognition assessments, studies spatial navigation, among many other things. Part of the monthly subscription is a spatial navigation activity where users play a game to discover how their dog navigates to treats in different scenarios. New data from Dognition shows an emerging trend that female dogs tend to be more flexible navigators than males. Female dogs generally use landmark navigation, meaning they associate locations with places. Male dogs tend to use an egocentric strategy where they relate whereabouts based on themselves. For example, a male dog might think, “the treat is on my right,” where a female dog would recognize the treat is near the lamp and continuously look for it there.
Over the last century, there have been numerous cases of dogs using navigation to return home or find their owner in an unfamiliar location. One example is Bobbie the Wonder Dog. In 1923 a family from Silverton, Oregon, brought their dog Bob with them on a road trip to Indiana, where he got loose and ran away. After an exhaustive search, the family headed back to Oregon with heavy hearts. Six months later, one of the children was walking down the street in Silverton where her friend spotted a familiar dog. It was Bob! The family dog had somehow made the trip —  2551 miles!  — back home. “Bobbie the Wonder Dog” became a local celebrity, earning a silver medal from the Oregon Humane Society and even playing himself in a silent film based on his story. During Bobbie’s incredibly long journey, he may have relied on a mental map that he formed from the journey to Indiana to navigate back to his family home.
In a more recent case, John Dolan from Islip, New York, received a most unexpected phone call in October 2012. A man had found John’s dog, Zander, and asked that John come to the hospital to pick him up. Ironically, John was already in the hospital being treated. His wife, previously at the hospital, was asleep at their home two miles away, and had yet to realize Zander was missing. What makes Zander’s story so remarkable is that he never previously visited the hospital. He wasn’t returning to a location he knew about, like Bobbie the Wonder dog, but uncovering his owner’s location in an urban jungle. Dogs are known to have great noses, with hundreds of millions of scent receptor cells, compared to the measly few million receptors in the human nose. Perhaps Zander detected that John’s wife carried her husband’s scent, mixed with that of the hospital, and then used that to sniff out the building’s location. If this was the case, the incredible feat is that Zander was able to connect the two smells and infer the location of his owner. John said in an ABC News interview, an important lesson from his dog’s amazing journey is for dog owners to properly tag their pets so that all reunions can have the same happy endings as his and Zander’s.
Dognition lets you discover how your dog thinks so you two can connect
on a whole new level. It’s like getting a “dog’s-eye view” of your best  friend’s world.