Most people believe that dogs have a unique ability to find a way home even if they are far from it and in an area that they never previously explored. Let us try to find out how much of the stories about the dogs’ ability to navigate at long distances are true and if dogs can really find their way home.
Orientation by Smell
Cases when a dog managed to find a way home from a completely unfamiliar place are very rare. Despite common belief, when people hunt with dogs in an unfamiliar place, often the dogs are getting lost because they are losing their orientation. At times, dogs can come back home from an unexplored area if they were there in the past during hunting or fishing, and simply remembered which way they and their owner went to get back. In this scenario, finding a way home depends on dog’s memory and, to some extent, luck rather than on orientation skills.
Probably, being far from home, the dog can notice some smells that are similar to those around the house. However, they usually are not enough to get the idea of which direction to go or how far away the house is. In this situation, the dog, having received a signal in the form of a smell, can begin an instinctive search, until he finds the place that he already knows and it can help it find home. Moreover, those dogs that walk freely without a lead and have the opportunity to study the places of walks well are more likely to succeed.
The orientation by the sun or the moon makes it possible for a dog to determine the desired direction even more so than it would be for a person who found himself in exactly the same situation. Not many people know that dogs are very good at finding their way by the location of sun and moon. They inherited this ability from wolfs.
Dogs are great at creating mental maps that will help them orient in space. The combination of mental map and smell helps dogs find their way home even from far away. Pet that lives in the city will memorize route home after a few walks. Dogs rely on smell and sight when creating a mental map. Dogs can find their way home using a mental map by finding the shortest path even through previously unexplored territory. By the way, the ability of a dog to find his apartment in a multi-story building is not very good – they can’t easily tell on which flour their apartment is, they remember only the location of the door.
Strong Bond with an Owner
There are cases when dogs came back home to their owners even if they are many miles away. This cannot be logically explained even though many studies were made to test this theory.