9 Nosey Facts About Your Dog’s Sniffer

Whether their noses are big, small, short or long, our dogs all have a remarkable sense of smell.

Our dogs sense of smell is amazing, at least compared to our relatively-useless human snouts.

dog nose 

To understand the scope of our dogs’ ability to smell (and thus work for man), let’s start with a sampling of things dogs can track, sniff, identify, or detect:

  • Cancer
  • Drugs
  • Rabbits, fox, birds, other quarry for hunters
  • Lawbreakers on the run
  • Contraband
  • Infections diseases 
  • Traces of peanuts in food
  • Bed bugs
  • Missing persons
  • Cows going into heat (yes, you read it right)
  • Explosives
  • Cadavers
  •  Scat of endangered wildlife such as Cheetahs
  • Arson
  • Strangers approaching the yard
  • Sulphide-containing rocks (which are valuable) 

Now let’s explore Nine Nosey Facts about the canine nose:

  1. Exactly how much better is our dogs’ sense of smell than ours? Scientists guess the dog’s sense of smell is somewhere between 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than ours. {I asked a Beagle, Borzoi, and Basset Hound about these numbers, but the consensus was non-numerical, and a tad sassy if you ask me: “Human noses are altogether pitiful.”}
  2. Dogs have many more olfactory receptors detecting the prescience of smells than we do. In fact, for every one receptor we have, the dog has about fifty. That fact finally explains why my dog can smell an old treat deep in a coat’s pocket at the back of my closet, and I can hardly smell the treat when its fresh and I’m holding it up to my nose.
  3. While all dog breeds smell better than humans (love that double entendre!), the dog breeds with short noses, such the Pug, have less space for scent detecting cells. For example, the Dachshund has around 125 million smell receptor cells, while a Fox terrier has 147 million and the German Shepherd has about 225 million.
  4. So when we inhale, we breathe and smell through the same air passage in our nose. When air enters our dog’s nose, a fold of tissue separates the two functions of smelling and respiration.
  5. Some stellar sniffers, such as the Bloodhound and Basset Hound, have ears to facilitate their smelling abilities. The giant flappy ears fan the ground’s smells up to the dog’s nose.
  6. Scent-tracking dogs not only have remarkable sniffers, they have remarkable discernment: they ignore thousands of other smells on their path and focus on the requested smell.
  7. The Bloodhound leads the Exceptional Sniffer list; he has some 300 million scent receptors. Other scent-sational breeds include scent hounds such as the Bluetick Coonhound, sporting breeds such as the Labrador Retriever, and herding breeds such as the German Shepherd Dog.
  8. Don’t think your dog is ignoring smells when he doesn’t have his nose to the ground. Many search dogs, such as German Shepherds, air-scent, working to catch human scent carried by the wind. In fact, trailing is distinct from tracking. The tracker follows the precise steps of who he’s tracking. The trailing dog follows human scent wherever he may smell it, on the ground or in the air.
  9. And lastly, don’t underestimate the importance of your dog’s wet, occasionally slobbery nose, for the moisture (his glands release fluids) helps the dog smell the world more effectively.


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