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What's That Smell? Let's Ask Your Pup!

Posted by Caroline Aro on 09/29/2023

Super close up of a dog’s nose and face
Photo courtesy of Andrew Spencer, Unsplash

While humans primarily rely on our eyesight to take in our surroundings, dogs use both sight and smell. It’s fairly common knowledge that dog’s have an incredible sense of smell, but there’s so much more to it!

Why Dogs “Smell Better” Than People?

No, we’re not talking about cologne or aroma – comparing a dog’s personal body odor to a human’s is a debate for a whole other time. But have you ever wondered exactly what goes on that allows dogs to have such superior sniffers than people?

Dog noses have up to 300 MILLION olfactory receptors in their noses! We only have about 6 million. Not only that, but the part of the dog’s brain that analyzes smells is about 40 times greater than ours.

According to a 2021 study by NIH, about 12 – 13% of a dog’s breath goes into the “upper flow path” and is sent straight to the olfactory region – these molecules are deposited and cannot be exhaled. The remainder of the air in the lower pathway flows into the lungs. Basically, the way that they breathe allows them to keep all the good smells and process those in their brains while both inhaling and exhaling.

Dogs use their noses to understand and communicate with the world, other animals, humans. When meeting a new pup, your dog can determine if they are male or female, their general mood, whether or not they are healthy or ailing… All from just one sniff! They can get even more information by getting more up close and personal, which is why you’ll often see dogs greet each other with sniffs.

Dogs also have a great scent memory that allows them to recognize dogs or people, even if they haven’t met in years! Their scent memory is so developed that they can even remember certain aspects of their relationship with that dog/person, like who was more dominant.

Putting Their Noses to Work!

Because dogs have such an advanced and strong sense of smell, we’ve definitely put plenty of pup’s snoots to work.

Sniffer dogs have been used in coordination with people for a number of tasks for years. Dogs have been used by the military, police and similar organizations to detect illicit and potentially dangerous substances.

“Science Lab” takes on a whole new meaning when you consider how many dogs have assisted in the scientific and medical fields. Dogs have been trained to recognize a variety of diseases and ailments from patients’ tissue samples, exhaled breath or other samples. While this still may be a controversial method, dogs’ abilities are often used in conjunction with other more “traditional” methods.

Canines have the ability to detect specific biological scents such as diseases, but they can also trace the lingering path of human odor for days and over fairly significant distances. Search and rescue teams have used dogs to save victims of all sorts of events from natural disasters, accidents and more.

Happiness Starts with A Cold, Wet Nose

Close up of a short coated, dark colored dog’s nose with tongue sticking out
Photo courtesy of Madalyn Cox, Unsplash

When we think of dogs, we always think of their signature cold, wet snouts. There has also been the idea that a warm or dry nose is a sign of illness – this isn’t true, but it can absolutely affect how your pup is taking in scents.

A dog can more effectively capture scent particles when its nose is wet. Dogs will even lick their noses when they become dry because moisture is so important to their smelling capabilities. Smart dogs know better than missing out on all the smells to be smelled!

Give your pup lots of love and don’t forget to stop and smell the roses together!

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