What is a Flehmen Response in Dogs?

What is a Flehmen Response in Dogs?

Pet Psychology

Dogs can be funny creatures and can do some extremely amusing things which keep their owners entertained. They have incredible senses one of which is their scenting abilities which means dogs have superb sensory skills all thanks to one particular organ known as the vomeronasal organ or VNO which is found in their mouths and just behind their front teeth. The cells found inside the VNO are what is referred to olfactory receptors which are very like those found in a dog's olfactory mucosa. Our canine companions rely heavily on the different scents they come across every moment of their lives. They influence everything a dog does and when they come across a scent they find interesting, they often react with something called a Flehmen response.

Although a dog does not display what is known as a Flehmen response as much as many other animals, including cats, they still do what often appears to be something rather weird with their mouths. It's worth noting that a dog's sense of smell is around ten thousand times more acute than that of a human and that they can pick up the slightest odour extremely effectively, much more so that a person could ever do, thanks to the olfactory bulb which processes smells and then sends them to the brain for processing.

A dog's sensory bulb explained

The size of a dog's sensory bulb is around the size of a plum whereas in a person, it's the size of a small grape or dried raisin. Dogs also have what is known as a vomeronasal organ which is their second sensory system. Owners often see their dogs licking the air, flicking their tongues and smacking their mouths which is their flehmen response to a scent they’ve picked up in their mouths. It allows a dog's tongue to catch tiny particles which then opens ducts found in their mouths which in turn enter a dog's vomeronasal organ. The amazing this is that the memory of a scent can last for a dog's entire lifetime.

The importance of scent to dogs

Dogs feel more secure when they encounter certain scents and today there are very effective DAP diffusers which specifically fill the air with man-made pheromones that help dogs relax among other things. These diffusers are made to help reduce stress and anxiety a dog might be feeling at any situation which makes them uneasy which includes when they first arrive in a new home.

Owners can place specific essential oils in strategic places around a home which can help a dog with poor eyesight find their way around. It could also help them find their way to a back door or to their feed and water bowls. Most dogs love playing games that involve finding a specific item by using their scenting abilities which not only helps them use a natural ability, but it also helps when it comes to their training, education and it enriches their “playtime”.

Enhancing an environment for a dog

By making a dog's environment more interesting by enhancing it with "scents" they like, enriches their lives because they will enjoy sniffing out a treat on command. It also makes things more relaxing and less stressful which is especially true for timid and shy dogs that hate any sort of change in their environment.

Making walks more interesting

Owners often take a dog out for a walk knowing just how much physical exercise they need to stay fit and healthy. But it is also essential for a dog to have enough high value "sniffing time" when they are out and about too. This means taking them to places where they would be able to enjoy all the different smells they come across along the way.

Allowing a dog to run off the lead in a safe area where other dogs have previously been, is something they all enjoy because it allows them to read all the "messages" left by the other dogs that have already passed that way. For a dog, it's like reading the headlines in a newspaper and it tells them all they need to know about what's been going on in a favourite park when they are out on a walk and when they will demonstrate lots of Flehmen responses at the many interesting scents they come across.

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