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Discovering how dogs react to fog is something that may be of interest to dog owners considering how fog tends to envelop everything and create a different world.

Sure, from our perspective, fog just means lower visibility, but if we asked our dogs, we might get a more comprehensive view of fog considering their superior senses. 

What Happens When it's Foggy?

We tend to describe fog as a weather phenomenon that turns the world hazy. We are used to seeing fog in the fall when we go on a walk with our dogs or when we are driving.

Fog, from a human perspective may just seem like nothing really special. Other than turning the world hazy and making everything feel humid, fog doesn't mean much to us.  

However, fog may turn the world into something a bit mystical and we perceive it as a danger or inconvenience if it's really dense and we are driving or travelling by boat. 

Fog though is much more complex than that. When it's foggy, what's really happening is that tiny water droplets are being suspended into the air.

For sake of comparison, when we walk into fog, it's sort of like walking into a low-lying cloud. The only difference is that, the moisture from the fog originates from a local source such as a body of water (like a lake or ocean) or from nearby moist ground or marshes.  

Significantly Reduced Visibility 

Since us humans rely so much on eye sight, the most notorious impact fog has on us is the reduced visibility. Indeed, heavy fog is often a concern when we are driving or traveling through sea. 

The sinking of the Italian luxury liner Andrea Doria, which collided with the MS Stockholm in 1956, is attributed to the heavy fog off the coast of Nantucket.

Fog therefore impacts visibility a lot, especially if it's very thick. Fog is known to cut down visibility to one kilometer, while mist reduces visibility between one and two kilometers.

Many predator animals seem to take advantage of the lowered visibility to hunt for their prey. For instance, hawks are known for being more active in foggy conditions as they can hunt in open fields with less risk of being seen.

To dogs who aren't used to fog, they may feel initially puzzled or maybe slightly disoriented and unsettled by the abrupt change in scenery. 

Some dogs may find the reduced visibility due to fog, unsettling. 

Some dogs may find the reduced visibility due to fog, unsettling. 

Dampening of Ambient Sounds 

Other than impacting visibility, fog also impacts the way sounds travel. Typically, sounds travel really fastest through solids, then liquids and finally gases. 

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Since fog consists of water, considering that, it's made of many water droplets suspended in the air, we may deduce that sound must travel fairly quickly since it's for the most part a liquid. 

However, we must consider that there are small distances between water droplets, sort of some small "air gaps." This impacts the way sound travels as these air gaps happen to scatter more of the sound energy leading to sounds not being transmitted as loudly or as clearly. 

More specifically, in the case of high-pitched noises, there is a loss of energy, and therefore, a dissipating effect, (a phenomenon known as damping), whereas, low-pitched sounds lose less energy, which explains why fog horns use a low-pitched tone. 

So yes, you're not imaging things if you have noticed how it feels quieter on a foggy night compared to a clear one-what's happening is that ambient sounds are being dampened.

The Amplification of Scent 

Fog's impact on scent is likely something that will grab a dog's attention the most. Equipped with a sense of smell that is 10,000 superior than ours, this should come as no surprise. 

Dogs are known for detecting a variety of scents, from the individual scents of a missing person, to the scent of crushed vegetation on trails the dogs are tracking.

 Weather can deeply impact a dog's ability to detect smells and fog plays a primary role. 

When there is moisture in the air, track scent is amplified, which means that dogs will be more efficient in searching when it's foggy, snowing lightly or after it just rained, explains Edward W. Killam, in the book: "The Detection of Human Remains."

On top of this, consider that when there is humidity in the air, a dog's sense of smell tends to become more acute, probably due to improved nasal humidity and odorant trapping. Discover more on this here: "Yes, wet dog noses smell better!"

So if your dog seems more intent into sniffing when it is foggy, most likely it's due to its power in amplifying smells. 

Did you know? There is a drawback to consider when it comes to a dog sniffing in foggy weather. With the fog, scents risk lingering around in the air for some time, forcing a dog to scan the entire area, which ends up slowing down the whole process of tracking.

Loved this article? Then you'll likely be eager to discover how rain impacts dogs

Scent is amplified in fog.

Scent is amplified in fog.

References:

  • Kokocińska-Kusiak, A.; Woszczyło, M.; Zybala, M.; Maciocha, J.; Barłowska, K.; Dzięcioł, M. Canine Olfaction: Physiology, Behavior, and Possibilities for Practical Applications. Animals 2021
  • The Detection of Human Remains By Edward W. Killam

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