Animal Behavior

Behavior Basics

What does the term umwelt refer to with regard to animal behavior?

The term “umwelt” was first used by Baltic German biologist Jacob von Uexküll (1864–1944) to describe the part of the environment that an animal can actually perceive with its sense organs and nervous system. Animals display this concept in the wild, but the same behavior can be seen with domestic animals. For example, if a stranger comes into your house and tries to pet your dog, this may be perceived as a threat within the dog’s umwelt. The practical side of this is that you should be aware of your pet’s umwelt when introducing it to new experiences and people.


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