Like most mammals Dogs have an interesting organ known as the Vomeronasal organ, or for short the VNO. Often called the Jacobson’s organ. This organ sits at the end of a pair of fluid filled tubes (called the Incisive ducts) that run from between the dog’s nostrils and the roof of their mouth, ending just behind the front teeth.
The ducts are also filled with fluid and a muscular pump acts to move fluid between the nose and the VNO.
In John Bradshaw’s fantastic book In Defence of Dogs chapter 9 discusses this organ with relation to sniffing and a dog perception of odours.
He explains that the physical attributes of the organ lead to a very likely theory that scent molecules are experienced first by saliva and the fluid in the nostrils, when a scent is either inhaled or licked up, but they could then be pumped to the VNO with the small muscular pump for further detection.
As the information would then appear to reach the VNO immediately as it does the saliva and nostril fluid, the slight delay could mean it is better placed to detect more constant odours, such as another member of its species, rather than airborne odours that change continuously.
From the attributes it has and the actions it appears to perform, Bradshaw highlights the most likely need for the VNO is as an organ dogs use for Social odours.
Yet ultimately the reason for and the use of the VNO is still unclear.
I wonder if understanding the importance of the frequency – the energy of – of a scent molecule, could help provide a possible, albeit theoretical, answer.
The team headed by Jim Al-Khalili at Surrey University have excitingly proved that the perception of odours happens on a quantum, vibrational platform. I.e., happening as both a particle and wave like function.
Previous to their findings it was thought that scent molecules entered the body and were recognised as a particle by their molecular shape. The molecule shape entering and meeting with a receptor of the same shape, and thus being recognised.
The new discoveries showed that it is the vibrational wave-like state of the scent that is detected and ‘read’ by the scent organs rather than its molecular shape.
2 scents that smell the same but have very different molecular shapes were shown to vibrate at the same frequency. The scent organs were picking up on the frequency rather than the molecule itself and recognising them as identical.
For your dog the process of smell, so pivotal to their experience of the world, happens on a quantum level – using energy as information.
This finding can provide us another way of looking at mammals need for a VNO. The VNO could be providing the dog with a measurement of the scent, in its wave like state, a measurement of the energy, or frequency, of the scent.
Especially if this energy was in fact the energy of a molecule of emotion, a feeling. This would indeed be an organ used for social odours, but far more in depth than for instance knowing who was at a location at a given time, or if the dog has been met before.
Despite the VNO’s physical attributes appearing to show that the organ receives the scent information secondary to the saliva or the nostrils they could in fact be receiving the information immediately in a quantum fashion, as frequency acts as waves reaching all the cells at the same time rather than taking the direct physical route that a molecular particle would do.
By being able to analyse the frequency of a scent a dog would determine how a creature it smells actually feels through the VNO. Changes to the vibrational frequency of either us as owners, other dogs nearby or other animals in its environment would be instantly and consistently measured. The dog’s actions and behaviours would then be consistently influenced by this information. The dog’s own feelings of safety, contentment, concern or anxiety would be immediately set into play by the constant awareness of the feelings of those around him.
The late, and great, Dr Candace Pert’s research highlighted time and time again the role and the value of the emotional molecules in the body on behaviours and feelings.
Candace proved that the way we, or any creature, feels is most definitely not all in the mind. With the health of each cell contributing the emotions felt and receptors for feelings on almost every cell in the body, including the immune system. A 2 way process, with Feelings, Health and Behaviour being completely inter-related.
I believe this highlights that Behaviour can and is determined by how a dog feels. Thought, if dogs have them, are secondary and perhaps not even applicable at all to how a dog acts once it has received the vibrational information (the frequency) of its world.
Feelings being the dog’s complete world, their literal ‘everything’. The dog is not analysing how it felt or feels it is simply feeling and acting, feeling and acting. Indeed as many people comment – living literally – in the moment.
If the dog and its world truly does exist as a mass of energy, a mass of changing emotional molecular frequencies, it is easy to see why an organ such as the VNO is so useful to them.
The only remains the mystery of why we do not have a VNO ourselves? Humerously perhaps we lost it as we learnt to simply ask how somebody feels!
We certainly don’t very often ask; How are you thinking today?