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What can a dog smell?

Beagle dog sniffing in a field advice

What can  dog's smell with their nose?

© Shutterstock

We all know about our pooches fantastic sense of smell. But what can dogs smell? Well, as you're about to find out, the answer is pretty much anything.

By Ashley Murphy

From hidden stashes of dangerous drugs to the slightest change in their human's biochemistry, a dog's nose is one of the best detection systems in nature.

So let's take a closer look at our beloved pooch’s number one superpower!

How strong is a dog's sense of smell?

Your average household pup can smell in parts per million. To put this into context, dogs can detect the scent of a teaspoon worth of sugar diluted in a million gallons of water. And if you just happened to have two million barrels of apples lying around, a  passing dog would catch a whiff of the single bad apple in the bunch!

Why are dogs so good at smelling?

A dog's amazing ability to smell the faintest odours wouldn't be possible without their vomeronasal organ. It sits at the bottom of the canine nose and is specially designed to pick up the smell of other dogs. What's more, the vomeronasal organ can detect the messages hidden inside these scents. For example, when a female dog is in season, her urine will contain different levels of certain hormones. Once the vomeronasal region identifies these smells, its send them to a particular part of the dog's brain that tells him a potential mating partner is nearby.

How good are the olfactory receptors of a dog?

Olfactory receptors are neurons responsible for detecting smells. Almost all animals have them, including us humans. And while a dog's receptors are no different from ours, they have around 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose compared to our measly six million. What's more, the section of the canine brain devoted to analysing smells is 40 times greater than their humans. Overall, this means a dog's sense of smell is 100,000 times better than ours!

From what distance can dogs smell their owners?

If your pooch has been avoiding bath time for a few weeks, you could probably smell them from a few feet away. But even if you've just stepped out of the shower, your canine companion can easily pick up on your smell from the next room, while on a bright and windy day, they would have no problem catching a whiff of you from 40 feet away. And with the right training and weather conditions, tracker dogs can follow a scent over vast distances.

Which dog breed has the best sense of smell?

The dog's with the very best sense of smell make up a group called the scent hounds. These include the Bloodhound (generally considered to have the best nose in the business) and the Basset Hound. Other top sniffers include the German Shepherd, the Labrador, and the Golden Retriever.

How do sniffer dogs work?

A dog's sense of smell is so strong that it can detect things that would slip by us humans, including those working in the police, military, and airport security. As such, sniffer dogs play a vital role in keeping us all safe.

Sniffer dogs go through an intense period of training that starts during their puppy years. The pups are rewarded for their nose work with a toy or a treat whenever they discover contraband. This could be anything from illegals drugs, explosives, or even piles of hidden cash from criminal enterprises.

How is a dog's sense of smell useful to man?

Working dogs can also detect the smell of human bodies and often help rescue workers search for survivors following natural disasters. And assistance dogs like the Labrador can even tell when their owner's blood sugar levels are dangerously low. These pooches are now helping patients who have severe diabetes live fuller and more independent lives.

Are you wondering what a dog can sense? Check out these 5 amazing things that dogs can sense before they happen

What things smell bad to dogs?

Dogs tend to have a strong aversion to foodstuff with intense aromas, like chilli peppers, vinegar, garlic, and spices. This is because of the sheer number of receptors in a dog's olfactory system. After all, imagine if you suddenly had a sense of smell that was a thousand times stronger than it is now and someone suddenly stuck a raw piece of garlic in your face. Not good!

The next time you're walking your dog, pay a bit more attention to the way they use their noses. You'll soon see that this is how they build a picture of the world around them. And while their noses can sometimes get them into embarrassing situations, every smell they come across is important, including the scents left on lamp posts and trees by their furry buddies.