I remember reading an article on how dogs track, and why they tend to appear to zig-zag!
Apparently, when tracking another animal they will zig-zag simply because air movement has moved the scent, so they follow the scent in the direction that the air movement took it until it becomes faint. They will then change direction to pick up the scent again and repeat the whole process. The end result is a route full of detours and, if the quarry keeps moving in a straight line and at a proportional pace, I guess it will never get caught! Mother Nature is quite wonderful!
We were out walking Ray the other day. We have had some minor snow falls which, sadly, dictated the Town and many other people dumping salt and other chemicals on the sidewalks. Our solution is to encourage Ray to walk on the grass allowance (hidden beneath snow) that separates the sidewalk from the road. He has no problems with snow, but salt crystals (sharp edges) trapped between his pads cause him trouble, as does the salt if it melts (stings) on his feet.
We were happily wandering along and Ray was his usual congenial self, leaving evidence of his passing at every opportunity, when his nose went down in a very businesslike manner. The leash tightened so we knew that he was suddenly on a mission of significant importance. True to my understanding of canine tracking habits, he started weaving from side to side and was obviously homing in on something.
From our vantage point (just over 3ft higher than his), we saw where he was going! About 6ft ahead was a scattering of McDonald’s french fries (container was nearby). They were partially buried in the snow but clearly visible… even from his height! The situation was resolved very easily with a “Leave it!” and some guidance with the leash, but it leaves some unanswered questions.
With a sense of smell that is millions of times more sensitive than ours, wouldn’t you think that the scent of french fries (even cold and snow covered ones) would have been strong enough to home straight in on them (at least from about 6ft away), rather than this side to side routine? Wouldn’t you think that the scent would have been strong enough that he would have simply looked up and thought “Oh … there they are!”?
The problem of course is mine and not his! I am making the grand assumption that he would actually think when, in reality, he may just function in “automatic mode”. He had no idea that 6ft in front of him were fries. Given that the fries were not moving, he probably knew that if he wandered back and forth a few more times, and covered 15-20 more feet he would be at the source of the scent but then, I must now question Mother Nature! Why would she create a creature with such an incredibly awesome nose, but with no way of engaging other parts of the brain as necessary?