How Far Can A Dog Smell?

As compared to humans, dogs have a high number of olfactory (or smell) receptors. These are parts of a nose that pick out the scent particles in the air. Also, dogs have extended noses, meaning that they have more surface area, and thus, they move air better through their noses than we do. If you watch a dog trying to sniff, you will see it for yourself. As the dog moves more and more air, it picks out the different smells.

The far that a dog can smell is dependent on things like the type of scent and the wind. Under the best conditions, dogs have been reported to pick out people and objects far by 12 miles. How insane!

Dog Nose Facts

The one thing that people can’t argue is that dogs have an impeccable sense of smell. They can pick out every particle in the air with little effort. My Water Earth has is that the olfactory system of a dog works impressively such that a dog can pick up a scent that has been diluted by two parts per trillion. This means that a dog can pick out something buried as deep as 40 feet under the earth’s surface.

In one of the experiments meant to test the power of the dog’s olfactory sense, a dog picked out the smell of whale poop, which was about a mile away. The Whole Dog Journal mentions that some dogs have managed to pick up the scents of people who drowned at least 80 feet in the water. Canines manage to do so because they can pick little traces of a specific smell and follow it even for a week. Actually, some dogs have been able to discover and detect cancerous cells in people.

Let us now look at the details surrounding the power of a dog’s olfactory sense.

The Canine’s Breathing And Olfactory Faculties

For humans, smelling and breathing are the same thing. However, dogs have the power to separate these two things. If you take a look at the anatomy of the dog’s nose, you will realize a fold or a mass of tissues inside it that separate inhaled air from the exhaled one.

When a dog inhales, some of that air gets directed into and towards a network of bones known as turbinates, which are dedicated to the business of olfaction. The other part of the air goes into the lungs. Unlike humans, dogs engage in more prolonged and deeper breaths, and when they want to smell, they will engage in a quick sniff action. When it exhales, air goes out through the nose’s side to create an airflow that allows new smells to be drawn.

An Anatomical Touch: The Jacobson’s Organ

This is one of the organs that is present and functional in many mammals (like dogs) but vestigial in humans: The Jacobson’s organ, also known as the vomeronasal organ. This is found under the dog’s nasal passage, and it enables the dog to pick up chemical cues known as pheromones. Those cues are produced by all animals as a signal for something. For example, a female dog that is on heat produces pheromones, which the male picks up with the help of the Jacobson’s organ.

If the dog attempts to get more scent stream to its organs, you may see it pulling back its upper lips and its head’s rear back in a phenomenon called the flehmen reaction. This helps the dog to get a better sense of smell.

Compared To Humans

If you compare a dog to a human based on smell, the human comes up miles behind. Depending on the specific breed of focus, a dog’s olfactory sense can be anything between 10,000 and 100,000 times better. Humans possess around 6 million receptors in their olfactory senses, whereas our furry canine friends have at least 300 million – a whopping five times more!

The Dog Breed Info Center has it that the brain’s portion – in a dog – that works on processing scents is around 40 percent more sizeable than the one in a person’s brain. Talk about power.

K-9 Sniffer Dogs: The Nitty-Gritty Details

If you are a fan of detection dogs, you know that they are extraordinary in so many senses. Security services that use sniffer foods in patrol and guarding activities appreciate the ability and capability of the dog’s natural prowess.

But hey, what exactly do you even know about how detection dogs work? Whether the K-9 sniffer is used for explosive or drug detection, there are many interesting facts to learn from and about them.

Let’s take each fact one by one!

The Facts Themselves

1. Most all detection dogs are taught and trained to detect particular target scents. When the canines pick the smell out, they alert the security officers who are handling them. Although the scents vary immensely, a K-9 sniffer will discriminate and discern. Some of the scents that these types of dogs are trained to pick out include explosives, drugs, firearms, cash, criminal evidence, and other contraband.

2. A dog that has gone through detection training does not only have the ability to recognize and pick out specific smells but also the masked ones. If an odor is covered or masked by another, the dog will not have any problems picking it out. This ‘unmasking’ is made possible by the fact that dogs can smell in layers. So multiple ingredients that create multiple smells will not be troublesome.

3. Sniffer dogs are not a modern development. If you look at canine history, you will discover that the Babylonians, the Persians, and the Greeks used guard dogs for searches, rescues, and security.

Although a lot of time has since gone by, dogs are actually taken as the best and most effective bomb detectors. Over the years, experts have put in the time to research, discover, and develop new security methods centering around the dog. No other animal has achieved much success in the world of law enforcement apart from dogs.

4. Some dog breeds are best suited to do detection work like Labradors and Spaniels. However, the first breed to be taken up as police dogs were German Shepherds. They were used in the World Wars and the Vietnam War too.

The German Shepherd dog is known for its learning capabilities, obedience, and impressive intelligence. Also, its work ethic is fantastic and is not something you see with other dog breeds. The GSD is actually among the list of the best pig hunting dogs.

5. Detection and K9 dogs have a very different style of processing and identifying things. They use their olfactory sense to the max to ensure they know everything about an object. A detection dog will first put its nose to the test. The scent will tell the dog about the voice then the silhouette of the item will form in the dog’s mind.

Actually, you’ll be surprised that some K9s can tell the difference between one twin and another because their noses pick more information than the parents of the little ones.

6. Many of the detection dogs you see today are coming from being guide dogs. However, they switched quickly and swiftly because they were seen to have high levels of energy. Also, they usually got a little too distracted when they picked up new smells. So, we can say that the dogs only became sniffers because they failed to guide.

Your Dog Can Smell These, But You Can’t!

This section will look at a list of things that dogs smell, but we can’t. Snooper dogs do not leave any scent because of the specialty that their canine noses are made for. If the sense of smell were the ability to see, we would be near blindness, and dogs would see the best of everything.

As already captured elsewhere in the read, the numbers are incredible. Dogs have five times the number of receptors that a human has. If we focus on the terrific trackers known as the Bloodhounds, we are talking about 300 million receptors. This means that there are many scents that we miss, but dogs do not. So, loads of respect for those four-legged smell powerhouses.

This sense of smell also hinders them from enjoying their lives. When you’re with your dog and smell something pungent, the dog picks it five times. This means that it gets irritated more and would want to leave the foul-smelling place as soon as it can.

The many receptors make dogs able to smell and sniff everything. Our universe is a mass of stenches and fragrances combined, and a dog uses that combination to understand its surroundings. So, what are these things that dogs smell but we can’t? Let’s find out.

1. People

Yes – dogs know all the distinct smells coming from people. This is the reason why your dog won’t have trouble picking you out when you are in a crowd. Their sniffing is fine-tuned, and because they can smell people, they are used in many search and rescue missions with much success.

A dog that has gone through training will follow a scent they pick one footstep to the next. Actually, they can pick up scent droplets in the air. For us, this smell skill that dogs possess can be very valuable in the event we lose a family member. Instead of getting private investigators and human trackers, you can get a trained dog that will do the entire job for just a few dog biscuits.

2. A Woman’s Pregnancy

As already mentioned, dogs spend enough time with us to understand and pick out scents. When a woman gets pregnant, her body starts to shift in terms of hormones. When that happens, her smell changes. Canines are very good at picking these smells that human males clearly can’t. Although there is no scientific proof to back that claim, many pet parents will tell you that their dogs have ‘a sense of pregnancy’. If you have a more-than-excellent sense of humor, you should be laughing by now.

3. Emotions

This one is tough to understand because it’s absurd to think that emotions can smell. However, there is a way we can put a smell on an emotion: hormones. Whenever we experience any emotional change, we release hormones like oxytocin, adrenaline, and cortisol, depending on whether it is stress or happiness. When we sweat and breathe, dogs can detect the hormones and thus smell the emotions.

4. The Pandemic: COVID-19

Yes, Covid-19 is something that the nose of a dog can pick out. Like many other illnesses, the virus makes a person’s body produce odors in their sweat and saliva, which are detectable to dogs. As health workers, researchers and scientists keep working on dealing with the virus, studies are running concurrently to get the dogs involved in detecting the disease. Some countries like the UAE have deployed sniffer dogs at their airports to help sniff the virus.

5. Diseases Like Cancer

This is something that you may have picked from some other sources and left wondering if it were true. Following a study done in 2019, dogs were found to accurately detect cancer (97%) present in blood samples. For cancer, early detection is crucial to healing and recovery.

Dogs can now be specially employed to bridge the gap and fill the space that has been unoccupied for the longest time. If the tests work completely and dogs get better at cancer detection, we could be talking about saving many lives and a change in the cancer treatment style.

6. Diabetes

This ‘smelling’ of diabetes happens in the same way as it does with cancer. Dogs can pick out our ‘diabetic smells’ since blood glucose levels change the smell of our breaths. Because dogs have become experts at detecting smell changes, people who are living with serious diabetic issues are not finding it hard to get emergency help. These dogs are known as assistance dogs and help people in the same way as ESAs, or emotional support animals do.

Assistance dogs receive special training, which ensures that they remain alert and ready if the condition of a diabetic person worsens.

7. Calamities And Natural Disasters

You have heard about dogs that have pulled people out of earthquakes and tornadoes. This legacy that dogs have built proves that their smell senses have more to offer. The smell receptors can pick even the subtlest changes in the atmosphere. Dogs are magicians, and their wands are their noses.

8. Narcotics And Drugs In Generally

Yes, maybe you can smell weed being smoked in the garage, but can you smell cocaine? For a long time, dogs have been engaged in searches for illegal drugs. Because they have a bigger smell section in the brain, they execute their jobs well.

9. Weapons And Explosives

At the University of Alberta, researchers have it that a trained dog can detect gasoline and other fire accelerants in small quantities – about one-billionth of the regular 5-ml teaspoon. Just like drugs, a trained dog will find it easy to detect weapons and explosives.

10. Bed Bugs

This one should make you wince like you want to laugh. If you’re a dog lover, this should be good news – especially if you live in a place that gets bedbug attacks all the time. It is surprising that although dogs have that unique ability, pest-control companies do not use them. But that begs the question – how does a dog smell out bedbugs?

Those little, nasty invaders omit a particular odor that is a bit too strong to pick out. Humans can smell them, but only if the bugs are in large numbers (infestations). With bedbugs, it is perhaps a good thing that humans do not smell them – that would be heartbreaking to the nose.

11. The Poop Of A Whale

This one is a little too hard to believe, but it is very true. There is a rescue dog that does the poop-smelling business excellently. It can smell it when it is 1.6 miles away (mentioned previously). How incredible and amazing is that!

Dog Breeds With The Best Smell Senses

At this point, you know how powerful the olfactory sense of a dog is. You know the things a dog can smell, and you can’t, but how about we look at specific breeds? This section brings you a list of the most excellent sniffers in the canine world. See yourself to the end.

1. The Pointer

Many hunters like what the Pointer can do. It has the powerful ability to find birds using smell. The deep, long muzzle with widely-open nostrils is what the Pointer uses to pick out its findings.

2. The German Shorthaired Pointer

The German Shorthair, just like the Pointer, is outstanding in terms of its ability to smell even the subtle scent particles. It will follow a ground scent with intensity as it holds its large and brown nose down. On the flip side, the Pointer runs its head up.

Google is a German Shorthair that works in the Caribbean country of Costa Rica to scent out jaguar poop as the researchers do their studying business on the species.

3. The Coonhound

The Coonhound breeds – English, Redbone, Black and Tan, Treeing Walker, and Bluetick – have powerful noses. The only difference is that the dogs scent differently. While some are hot-nosed – meaning that they operate optimally on new trailing – others are cold-nosed and can follow a trail that has stayed for weeks.

4. The English Springer Spaniel

This is one of the most popular sporting dogs, and it comes either as field-bred or show-bred. The field-bred kindly are seen as prized possessions by hunters because of their excellent noses (broad nostrils that are either black or liver-colored). Many Springers can get trained to detect odors like those emitted by human remains, narcotics, explosives, beehives, and fake currency.

5. The Belgian Malinois

These dogs are commonly absorbed into military and police forces to be used as search-rescue dogs. They are known for their keen smell sense and can sniff out cheetah scat, explosives, and prostate cancer.

6. The Labrador Retriever

This retriever is one of the most popular dogs in North American. They are loved not only as companion dogs but also because of their sharp noses. Labrador Retrievers have been absorbed in many scent-based jobs like bomb and drug detection, arson, and search-rescue missions.

7. The German Shepherd

This, without the shadow of a doubt, should be one of the most popular herding dogs. Canine research has it that a mature German Shepherd has close to 225 million receptors in its nose. The one trait that law enforcement agencies know them of is their air-scent detection abilities. Instead of sticking its nose to the ground, the dog chooses to sniff on the wind. Many German Shepherd dogs are employed by search-rescue groups, the military, and the police because of their high versatility.

8. The Beagle

While this may be one of the tiniest dogs in the canine world, the Beagle is not left behind in terms of smelling and scenting. Actually, it shares with the German Shepherd in terms of the number of scent receptors.

Most of them like following both ground and air scent. This dog’s special smell abilities not only popularize it with hunters but also with the APHIS (the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) operating under the USDA (the United States Department of Agriculture). In the agency, dogs are used in contraband detection in airports. The Beagles, which have been in operation for quite some time, have about a 90 % chance of succeeding in scenting and can pick out about 50 odors.

9. The Basset

This dog, which is native to France, is bred to follow scented trails. The name bas means low, which tells you how they love sniffing – down to the ground.

The Basset has heavily long ears that sweep the floor to bring the scent of focus upwards to the dog’s nose. The dewlap – which is the skin hanging loosely beneath the chin – assists in scent trapping. The AKC has it that the Basset only comes second to the Bloodhound in terms of scenting capabilities.

Leave a Comment