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How Powerful Is Your Dog's Nose?

How Powerful Is Your Dog's Nose?

It’s no surprise that a dog’s sense of smell is much stronger than that of a human. But just how powerful are dog’s noses? Some think it’s up to 100,000 times more powerful than ours!

Our furry friends can smell all kinds of things that we are oblivious to—like your dirty sock hiding under the bed or the treat bag from a mile away. So how do they do it? 


The Unique Anatomy of a Dog Nose

Did you know that each nostril functions independently and can sample air from different areas at the same time? This helps a dog pinpoint exactly where odors originate from in their environment. 

Dog sniffing (aka a series of rapid inhalations and expirations), maximizes the detection of odors by allowing air to move in and out of the nose at the same time, so dogs are constantly taking in new scents as they are expelling old ones. 

The internal architecture of the canine nose and nasal cavity allows air to take different routes during breathing (inhalation) versus during sniffing.  Once through the nostrils, air enters the bony nasal cavity which contains turbinate bones and paranasal sinuses. 

When breathing normally, the inhaled air is split up in the nasal passages — part of it goes to the olfactory region in the back of the nasal cavity and the rest travels through the trachea to provide oxygen to the lungs. But when sniffing, more of the air goes directly to the olfactory region where smells are processed and the details are then sent to the brain for interpretation. The exhaled air exits the nose through the slits in the side of the nose.

How Much Stronger Is a Dog’s Sense of Smell?

When it comes down to dog vs human sense of smell, it’s no comparison. In contrast to a human’s 5-6 million olfactory receptors, dogs have closer to a whopping 300 million olfactory receptors in their nasal cavities. These receptors send messages directly to the olfactory bulb of the brain.

The number and type of receptors present can vary depending on the breed, genetics and even training. Each olfactory receptor in a dog’s nose has hundreds of cilia (microscopic hairlike structures) that respond to odors. In comparison, humans only have about 25 cilia per receptor. 

And for dogs, add to the list yet another option for odor investigation—the vomeronasal organ, a specialized sense organ located at the base of the nasal cavity just above the roof of the mouth. Its function is to detect pheromones (specific chemicals produced by animals), playing a role in behavior and reproduction. 

Because of their unique anatomy and physiology, dogs can recognize a much wider variety of odors more accurately than humans, even in the presence of many competing smells. Thanks to this superpower, dogs have become indispensable partners for things like hunting, drug detection, search and rescue work, and even detection of medical conditions.

Some Fun Furry Facts

Not All Noses Are Created Equal

In general, dogs have a great sense of smell, but some are stronger than others. Breeds with short noses (brachycephalic) like bulldogs have the least sensitivity to odor compared to other breeds. The dogs with the best sense of smell? Bloodhounds!

Age and Smell Go Hand In Hand

When dogs get older, their sense of smell (along with all their other senses) become less and less strong. In fact, sometimes this loss of smell can lead to picky eating, which is why we made our Picky Dog Essentials Starter Pack.

No One Nostril Is the Same

Imagine if you could assign different smelling jobs to your nostrils. With something called “sniffing lateralization” dogs actually can smell things separately with each nostril. At first, dogs will use their right nostril when they start to sniff. If they detect a familiar scent, like food or humans they know, they often switch to their left nostril. But if they smell something that could be threatening, they stay with their right nostril.

Stress Smells

Can dogs smell stress? Some studies say so! One such study at Queen’s University Belfast concluded that dogs were able to detect stress on a human’s breath and sweat.

Terrific Trackers

As you probably already know, organizations like the police and search and rescue teams use dogs to help track scents. How far can dogs smell? We’ve seen studies that show they can track a scent from 1.6 miles away.

Sniffing Your Scent

It’s true: Your dog loves you and your smell! One study at Emory University observed a dog’s brain as they smelled different scents. When the dog smelled the scent of a familiar human, the section of their brain associated with positive feelings and social rewards lit up.


Why Wet Is a Winner

Your pup’s nose is wet for a reason: It helps them smell better. The mucus that occurs when a dog wets their noise helps capture scent particles.

Sniffing Out the Goods

Your dog might not be using their smelling superpower out in the wild, but there’s no doubt that they rely on it to make choices about what they want to eat. 

The aroma of a food can either entice a dog to eat it or walk away. For our Jinx kibble recipes, we landed on superfood ingredients that not only power up your pup, but also smell great and add to the overall sniff experience.  Plus our treats are slow-smoked for 14+ hours for maximum scent and flavor. 


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