When Instinct Surpasses Technology

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When we think of dogs, either in general or personally, reflecting on their role within our many cultures, how much of what we observe and read is truly understood? Could there be more about these amazing domesticated canines we have yet to discover?

Instinct, not to be mistaken with reflexes, is an inherent inclination towards a particular behavior. It is executed without being based on any prior experiences, or in other words, in the absence of learning.

When we discover that our dogs are much more than we thought, there is a moment of euphoria. Of course we want to share this moment with everyone. Enter Pero  . In April of this year this four-year-old sheepdog traversed about 240 miles in two weeks returning to his original home, on his own, leaving many completely dumbfounded in how this was achieved.

Theories have poured in since this story broke attributing this amazing feat to many possibilities. Dogs are known to be reward driven. With this, they make positive associations with people and places. Maybe this is how Pero made his journey. Dogs of course are known to have amazing olfactory abilities. Did Pero smell his way home? Then there is this; Pero somehow, like birds, whales, and turtles, used the magnetic field that surrounds the Earth like a compass and made his way home. Turns out there does appear to be some evidence to support this. Recent findings have revealed that dogs along with some primates possess a molecule associated with magneto reception, which gives them the ability to sense a magnetic field. Located in the retinal cone cells, this molecule is now being found in a range of other species as well, including: foxes, wolves, bears, and badgers. The reason for the presence of this molecule remains undetermined and researchers have acknowledged that it might not be related to magnetoreception.

Just how deep do our relationships run between human and dog? I am sure many of us would like to think that the inherent love we have for our canines goes both ways, and I am sure to a large degree it does, but stories like Pero are more the exception than the rule. Dogs are the biological decedents of wolves. There will always be that tendency to explore, spurred on by curiosity from one stimuli to another, they will run, and the reality is that not all will find their way back.

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