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Dog’s Sense of Smell

Dog’s Sense of Smell

Dogs' sense of smell is their superpower, without which surviving would become extremely difficult.  The reason for this is that dogs depend on their sense of smell for interacting with their environment.

As puppies dogs cannot tell the difference as to which dog is their mother but when they need milk, they use their nose to locate her so they can eat.


Identify Mood

Through smell, a dog can tell whether a dog wants to fight, run away, do nothing, or become friends. Through smell a dog will avoid a fight, have peace of mind, assert dominance, and make friends.  Certain dogs use smell as a warning to stay away from a dog that is aggressive while other dogs use this as an opportunity to assert dominance. 

Have you ever walked your dog and meet another dog along the way?  While the two dogs greet each other, they both wag their tails and look  like they want to be the best of buddies… and then in a snap, they want to rip each other apart?  This comes from their noses picking up on something that we cannot see.  They could be getting a message like “I smell you, but I want you to know that I am the boss of you”. Usually when you have these encounters one of the pet parents will say “he has never behaved like this before…”.  They are dogs, not people and have a whole other language from ours.



We know our pups love food, and it seems the smell of our food draws their attention.  The difference between a dog’s sense of smell and ours is that besides smelling the food, they can actually taste it!  In the wild this was helpful as they would know whether to pursue what they are smelling or ignore the scent as it is unpleasant and not consumable.  This is why when we eat broccoli they may not come running because they can taste it without eating it. Sizzle up a burger and you will find a drooling pup who looks at you with those adoring eyes that are conveying the message “come on!  Just a little bit pretty, pretty please?”


What are you? 

Generally, as people, we can look at someone and know if they are male or female.  To a dog this is not the case.  The advantage their nose gives them is they can tell gender by smell.  Male dogs can smell whether a female is ready to mate, from several miles away.  This is why when a dog is in heat, we are told to keep them away from other dogs for obvious reasons.  What is not so obvious is that your female will have a lot of suitors that show up uninvited.

How ya’ feeling?

Through smell dogs can even detect mood.  As their pet parents’ dogs can pick up on our joys as well as our sadness.  We have all had situations of sadness where we find our dog wanting nothing more than to love on us and give us affection. 


Letting dogs smell is so important.  There are times when we walk our dogs and use this time for training.  Other times when we are walking, we need to let them be dogs and let them smell the world around them.  It can be harmful to not let your dog smell, dogs that don’t sniff suffer from boredom, frustration, and anxiety.  You can learn how to train your dog to have smell time or training time.  You can learn the commands for “heel” and then use the word “go smell” when you allow them to roam and take time inhaling the world around them.”


When we were working on solutions to our dog’s anxiety, we would try a lot of different essential oil scents known to help dogs such as Lavender and Chamomile but we found when we incorporated the scent molecules of the owner that we had the most success with the dog behaving in calmer more tranquil manner. A dog’s nose is truly such an amazing tool. Wouldn’t it be great if we could taste food just through smell?


Bonus: Does your dog have the strongest sense of smell?  Here is a list of the top 10 sniffer dogs.


  • #1 Bloodhound: Designed to track, this #1 pup with the best sense of smell.  These are great dogs for tracking and search and rescue.  Sometimes they can be a challenge as a pet as their nose rules their world.  You have to make sure your pup is in your sight as their noses can take them miles and miles from home.


  • #2 Basset Hound: Another dog known for its tracking; Bassets are smaller than Bloodhounds but giant in hard work.  Besides the amazing nose, they have long time endurance to track until the job gets done.  These are also super sweet and loving dogs.


  • #3 Beagles: Another dog that is led by its nose.  It is not uncommon to see Beagles at airports searching for drugs, illegal foods, and other contraband.  Beagles are another super sweet and loving dog.  They do like to bark, so be prepared to embrace this little pup’s vocal side.


  • #4 German Shepherd: I grew up with German Shepherds and know they are super smart and loyal dogs.  They are known for their millions of scent receptors which make them ideal for police work and detecting drugs, bomb, and explosive detection as well as missing persons.


  • #5 Labrador Retriever: These super sniffers are used for sniffing out medical issues with patients.  Hospitals and doctors have started to use them to alert them to patients with cancer.  Like the shepherd, they are also used for drug and explosive detection.  Labs are also extremely lovable and crave affection. 


  • #6 Belgian Malinois: I always wanted a Belgian Malinois but learned that these super smart dogs need a lot of stimulation to keep them from being bored.  Military and police use these as their number one pick to find drugs and bombs.  They are extremely protective of their families or handlers.


  • #7 Bluetick Coonhound: Originally these southern pups were used to hunt racoons.  When tracking they also bark and howl letting their humans know where they are and if they found their prey.   


  • #8 Black and Tan Coonhound: These dogs have super strong scent receptors and are often used when other tracking methods fail.  Probably because of their “won’t quit until I find it” attitude these super smellers go back and forth over and over until they find the smell that will lead them to a missing person.


  • #9 Golden Retriever: Goldens lift their noses in the air to capture scent receptors as opposed to nose to the ground like the beagle, coonhounds, bloodhounds, and bassets.  When trained by professionals, these beauties can alert people to allergens such as peanuts.  When they smell the peanuts, they can alert their companion to stay away, saving their life if the allergy is severe.


  • #10 Dachshund:  These little cuties have a nose for work and a focus that is hard to change.  Dachshunds are great for tracking little critters and do great in field scent competitions.


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