Fun Facts About Dog Smell

If you’ve ever noticed how much your dog sniffs when you go for a walk, you might be surprised to discover the reason for this behavior.
Curiosities about the smell of dogs

Smell is not completely essential for human beings, but thanks to it we can perceive aromas that are pleasant or, on the other hand, can alert us to something dangerous. Smell conveys a lot of information, but imagine being able to perceive all scents in a much more intense way, like a fragrance bomb. Dogs smell like that.

The olfactory capacity of these domestic animals is much more acute than that of humans, up to 10,000 times more potent than that of our species. If you want to know several curiosities of the canine smell, keep reading.

Anatomy and Smell

Terrestrial mammals – including dogs – usually have a snout, which has 2 nostrils separated by a partition or septum. Air circulates through these channels from the nasal openings to structures known as the nasal shells.

These anatomical sites are lined with a mucosa that, in turn, contains thousands of olfactory sensory cells. The task of these cell bodies is to capture all the odorous substances and finally deliver them to the nervous system so that they can be perceived and interpreted by the brain.

All humans, as well as dogs, have the ability to detect various odors present in the environment around us, thanks to the olfactory receptors, located in the olfactory sensory cells mentioned above.

The huge difference we find between them and us is this: humans have up to 5 million of these cells, while dogs can have 220 million or more.

We could exemplify these numbers in dimensions to make the comparison even more interesting: the total olfactory area that dogs have is equivalent to 150 square meters, compared to the 5 square centimeters of the human olfactory area. Surprising, isn’t it?

Dogs' sense of smell is essential for their survival.

Dogs’ smell is their means of communication

As with many other animals, the sense of smell in dogs plays a key role in socialization, communication and recognition. Dogs communicate primarily by chemical signals. Therefore, being able to detect microparticles in air is essential for this.

Who are responsible for making this olfactory communication possible? The answer may be surprising: pheromones. You’ve certainly heard of them, but if that’s not the case, we’ll explain what these chemical compounds consist of in a very simple way.

Pheromones are odorous substances of various compositions, all secreted externally. In order for them to convey a message, they will have to go through a chain of physiological processes in order to provoke a specific reaction in the behavior of those who perceive them.

In dogs, the excretion sites are mainly in the anal sacs and breasts. Pheromones can also be used as olfaction signals present in the vulva and urine. Generally, they are so exclusive that often only animals of the same species perceive and interpret them.

Pheromones have very interesting characteristics, including the following:

  • They manage to maintain their effectiveness even over long distances.
  • Despite the passage of time, they persist and can be captured by animals. The dogs’ developed sense of smell picks them up with almost no problem.
  • Even at very low concentrations, its effectiveness does not diminish.

Dogs that have the most powerful noses

Since domestication, the human species has taken advantage of the dog’s excellent sense of smell. For example, we work closely with dogs on tasks as old as hunting.

Nowadays, dogs carry out activities related to smell, such as tracking narcotics and explosives, as well as searching for and rescuing people in natural disasters. The most skillful and trained dogs are even able to detect diseases such as diabetes and some types of cancer at an early stage.

Over time, it was discovered that a dog’s sense of smell can be trained to track just about anything. Furthermore, after numerous researches on their cranial morphology, it was concluded that this characteristic is closely related to their olfactory capacity.

Dogs’ smell by breed

Among the more than 300 races that currently exist, some that stand out in terms of smell are the following:

  • German Shepherd: with approximately 225 million olfactory receptors, it is considered one of the most powerful nose and smell breeds. These dogs are essential in police, search and rescue tasks, and at border points.
  • Dachshund: also known as teckel or, popularly, as sausage, it is, in relation to its size, the dog with the best sense of smell. Therefore, these dogs are famous for being excellent hunters of badgers, wild boars and hares. They have approximately 125 million olfactory receptors.
  • Golden retriever: this breed originally from Scotland performs numerous activities thanks to the reach of its sense of smell. In addition to excellent trackers, many golden retrievers are dedicated to detecting allergens in food.
  • Basset hound: It is considered the second breed with the most powerful sense of smell of all. These dogs are excellent allies when searching for drugs, explosives and illegal substances in seaports and airports. In the United States, they are used in research to detect diseases.
  • Cão-de-santo-humberto: of Belgian origin, this is, above all breeds, the one with the best and greatest sense of smell. Thanks to its numerous internal folds in the nasal cavities, its surface area for capturing and assimilating odorous particles is potentially increased, as it has 300 million olfactory receptors. This dog is the ultimate tracker.

Cão-de-santo-humberto: the tracker par excellence.

The world of canine smell is fascinating. When you take your dog for a walk in the park and see that he is sniffing the grass and sniffing out other friends who are there, imagine the thousands of smells he perceives at that moment. That’s why they are so happy when they see the guide for a walk.

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