DEAR JOAN: My yellow lab eats so fast I wonder if he can actually taste the different dog meals and snacks I put in his food?
He also smells everything he can on his walks. Although he just walks, not runs, he is tired and panting when he gets home. He is 6 years old. Does sniffing take a lot of energy?
Norm Dow, Bay Area
DEAR NORM: Anyone who has ever watched in horror as their dog ate something disgusting probably assumes dogs have no sense of taste, and they’re kind of right. While humans have around 9,000 taste buds on our tongues, dogs have only around 1,700.
However, their sense of smell is about 1 million times stronger than ours, so while they might not be able to detect the subtle hints of mushrooms in a risotto on their tongues, they can smell them.
Having tasted the food with their noses, they see little reason to linger over their meals, which to them just don’t taste as good as they smell.
As for your dog being tired after a sniff-filled walk, I’d take him to the vet, just to make sure there isn’t something else going on to explain his tiredness. Sniffing usually is not physically exhausting, but it is mentally hard work.
A dog’s highly sensitive nose is constantly feeding information to its brain, and your dog is processing it all. Trainers often recommend taking high-energy dogs on walks that allow them to do a lot of sniffing, as it helps to tire them out.
So your dog might be getting a mental workout, which we all know can be fairly tiring.
DEAR JOAN: Is it true that goldfish have such short memories that every trip around the fish bowl is a new experience for them?
D.A., San Diego
DEAR D.A.: That’s been the story for as long as I can remember, but turns out that it’s not true.
The myth that goldfish — and other fish — have only 3-second memories was disproved by researchers who trained fish to respond to certain sounds in order to get food. Months later, when the fish were released into the wild and once again exposed to the sounds, they remembered their training.
The experiments showed that their memories were at least 5 months long, which I found impressive as I struggle to remember what happened last week.
Tripped up by math, again
It would appear I need a mental workout, too. In a recent column, I published a letter from a reader who wrote about hummingbirds. She said her recipe for hummingbird nectar is 1/4 cup of sugar to 2 cups of water, and I agreed. I shouldn’t have.
The correct formula for hummingbird nectar is one part sugar to four parts water, so in her recipe, it should have been a half cup of sugar to her 2 cups of water, or a quarter cup of sugar to 1 cup of water.
Dang math gets me every time.
In mixtures that aren’t sweet enough, the birds try to get more sugar by drinking more nectar, and end up filling up without getting those important calories.
I managed to confuse or puzzle many of you, who wrote asking whether you are doing it incorrectly, or if bird experts had decided the weaker solution is preferred. You aren’t and they aren’t. Please continue to use the 1:4 ratio and keep those hummers humming.
Are dogs capable of tasting the foods they wolf down?