Dogs are great companions—and they’re really good for us—science backs their ability to help mankind


“Hobo” 18-year old rescue dog. Maintains strong abilities at her advanced age.

Curt Arnold, Reporter

Dogs have long been considered man’s best friend, with their loyalty and unconditional love. There is so much more to know about the favorite four-legged friends. 

The world of science has uncovered some truly remarkable aspects of our canine companions.

Dogs! A Science Tail located at the Phoenix Science Center in downtown Phoenix, is an immersive exhibit that explores the bond between humans and dogs which is one of the most successful interspecies partnerships of all time. The exhibit includes information on where dogs came from, how dogs experience the world, what makes our bond with dogs so special and how to care for our canine best friends. The event runs through April 30th. 

It’s no secret that dogs have an impressive sense of smell. Scientific studies have shown that a dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than that of humans. This incredible ability allows dogs to detect odors at concentrations as low as parts per trillion. This has made dogs an invaluable asset in search and rescue missions, detecting explosives and drugs, and even in the medical field for diagnosing diseases such as cancer by smelling volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in human breath or bodily fluids.

Research into canine intelligence has revealed that dogs possess an impressive ability to problem-solve, understand human gestures, and even display empathy. Dogs can understand up to 250 words, count up to five, and even perform simple math.

“The upper limit of dogs’ ability to learn language is partly based on a study of a border collie named Rico who showed knowledge of 200 spoken words and demonstrated fast-track learning, which scientists believed to be found only in humans and language learning apes,” said leading canine researcher Stanley Coren, PhD, of the University of British Columbia.

The exceptional abilities of dogs have led to their popular use as assistance and therapy animals. Service dogs are trained to perform tasks to help individuals with disabilities, such as guiding visually impaired individuals, alerting deaf individuals to sounds, or providing mobility assistance. Therapy dogs on the other hand provide emotional support and companionship to those in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and disaster areas, helping to alleviate stress, anxiety, and loneliness.

Dogs continue to amaze us with their remarkable abilities, from their exceptional sense of smell to their complex intelligence. 

One Valley resident, Jesse Tannous, is a companion to “Hobo” an 18-year old rescue dog discovered by Jesse’s mom when “Hobo” came wandering onto their property off the street in central Phoenix more than 16 years ago. A vet determined “Hobo’s” age at the time of the rescue.

Today, Hobo’s vet tells the family that even though Hobo has lost some of the keenness of her eyesight and some hearing, her ability to navigate is quite amazing for her advanced age. 

“Hobo (or “Hobie” as we also call her) —the name Hobo just stuck because she was literally a “street dog” looking for a place to rest. I mean even now, Hobo will literally sprint, like fast, in our half acre back yard and she manages to miss the various trees and shrubs located throughout. So something is still working just fine with her sense of smell or direction because she doesn’t crash,” Tannous said. 

The many scientific explorations of our canine companions has not only deepened our understanding of these incredible animals but has also shed light on their relationship with humans. Dogs have been domesticated for over 20,000 years and as we continue to uncover the many wonders of dogs, it’s clear that they will remain a very special part of our lives.