6 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About a Dog’s Sense of Smell

6 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About a Dog’s Sense of Smell

Dog noses aren’t just cute, but they are also a very powerful organ. Yes, we all know that a dog’s sense of smell is more powerful than our own, but here are 6 bits of information from the experts that will put their sniffing power into perspective…and possibly make more interesting conversation at your next dinner party.

A dog’s nose has two functions—one for smell and one for respiration. According to researchers, a canine’s nose has the ability to separate air. A portion goes directly to the olfactory sensing area (which distinguishes scents), while the other portion is dedicated to breathing.

Dogs can smell up to 100,000 times better than a human. Michael T. Nappier, DVM, DABVP, of the Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, puts this tidbit into perspective with an awe-inspiring analogy. “A dog’s sense of smell is its most powerful sense,” he says. “It is so sensitive that [dogs can] detect the equivalent of a 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.”

Dog’s have a special scent-detecting organ that humans don’t have. This is called the vomeronasal (say that five times fast) organ. Its function is to help canines detect pheromones, chemicals released by animals that affect other members of the same species. This organ plays an important role in reproduction and other aspects of canine physiology and behavior.

Your dog’s nose is uniquely shaped. Every single dog in the world has a totally unique nose print, just like humans have a totally unique fingerprint.

Dogs smell in 3-D. Dogs can smell separately with each nostril. Just as our eyes compile two slightly different views of the world, and our brain combines them to form a 3-D picture, a dog’s brain uses the different odor profiles from each nostril to determine exactly where smelly objects are in the environment.

A dog’s sense of smell can pick up fear, anxiety and even sadness. The flight-or-fight hormone, adrenaline, is undetectable by our noses, but dogs can apparently smell it. In addition, fear or anxiety is often accompanied by increased heart rate and blood flow, which sends telltale body chemicals more quickly to the skin surface.

Surely now we may all think about our pup’s sense of smell the next time we come home from the gym before hitting the shower…

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