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Path Integration – A TOOL WITH A TAIL!! Not “Just” A Dog!


Path Integration

I am positive that I have been accused of being the “crazy dog lady”? I am actually okay with being called whatever you like to call me, in regards to my dogs.  I freely admit that they make my heart happy and my face smile.  But you know what?

Hendrix does a LOT more than that for me.  Hendrix The Hiking Dog is 100% a “tool” that I use to navigate when I am on the trails. The one time that I did not trust Hendrix, and I encouraged him to follow me down a different trail than he wanted to go on …… YEP! We got lost!  In the desert; almost summer time, and barely found our way back, before running out of water.  This one time was also the only time I feared I may had pushed him too hard, and he started to show real signs of getting over heated.  Lesson learned!
But how does he do it?  Smell, you say?  Well, not necessarily. While a dog does have over 300 million olfactory receptors, and their sense of smell is 40 X that of a humans, there is an even more amazing “talent” a dog has!!

While I don’t pretend to fully grasp the concept, I do know that “path integration” is a really cool thing!  The simplest way I can come up with to explain my understanding of path integration is like this:

BONE:  WHEN AN ITEM OF INTEREST IS PLACED (like the car to go home for example) WHERE A DOG CAN SEE IT, AND THEN IS BLIND FOLDED AND HEARING OBSTRUCTED, AND LEAD AWAY FROM THE ITEM, WHEN THE DOG IS GIVEN BACK IT’S FREEDOMS AND LET GO, HE/SHE CAN FIND THEIR WAY BACK TO SAID ITEM.The dog continually monitors it’s net distance and direction from the item so that they can return to it from any point!


I don’t know about you, but I find this information incredibly amazing.  It also explains why, when out hiking with Hendrix, he doesn’t miss a beat on the way back to the truck, when we are hiking.  Even on the very 1st time being on a trail, the only reason Hendrix stops on the way back to the truck, is to make sure I am still with him!  Hendrix is also very confident in his knowledge of where the truck is.  If I call out to him, he will stop and look at me, as if to say, “This is the way my simple minded human!”  He is obedient, so he will let me redirect him, but he doesn’t necessarily like it.  While I am aware that Hendrix is using all his navigational abilities, I completely believe he is using path integration extensively; just not exclusively.

Whistle 3 GPS Pet Tracker

Do you have a better explanation of “path integration”?  Do you have a great story of your dog helping you find the way home? Please comment below and share your thoughts and stories!!!

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