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A Nose is a Nose is a Nose . . . or is it?

Mar 07, 2016

Your dog’s sense of smell is fascinating, remarkable, and is currently getting a lot of attention from researchers. The scent ability of your best friend beats humans, paws down. I think about it this way. When you make pizza, you smell pizza. Us dogs . . .  we smell every single ingredient in the pizza . . . the tomato, onion, garlic, basil, oregano, red pepper, the flour, the yeast, etc.

But even that is an unimpressive example of the acute ability dogs have to detect smells.

Check out these “bark worthy” discoveries:

  1. The percentage of a dog’s brain that analyzes scents is 40 times that of humans.


  1. Estimates are that we dogs can identify scents between 1,000 and 1,000,000 times what you can detect.


  1. Dogs can identify smells in parts per trillion.

Alexandra Horowitz, a “dog-cognition” researcher at Barnard College, says, “If we are able to detect a teaspoon of sugar in our morning coffee, a dog is able to detect that same teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water”.


  1. Compare the number of scent receptors in various dog breeds to the number in humans.

  1. Dogs have an additional olfactory capability that people don't - in the vomeronasal, known as Jacobson's organ, which picks up the unique chemicals present in every animal species.


  1. People communicate with voice and email . . . dogs use “pee-mail”. You ever notice that when I meet another dog the encounter nearly always includes butt sniffing? This richly odoriferous encounter can tell me nearly everything about another dog, through sense of smell . . . age, lineage, health status, diet, place in the pack, etc. We get as much information in this greeting as you humans can get in a full day of conversation. . . So don’t discourage it . . . it is quite normal. I know the expectation is different when I see Aunt Alice, so I will try to behave and smell from a distance.


  1. When we are on a walk . . . remember the walk is for us, as much . . .  actually more, than it is for you. Don’t rush us or get impatient when we stop to sniff every tree or park bench or a pile of sticks. We are exploring our world, “sniffing all the other dogs and critters that have been there, and are leaving our mark for others to find.


  1. A dog’s wet nose attracts and holds scents kind of like glue. Sometimes we will lick our dry nose to reactivate the smell sensors.


  1. You computer nerds will relate to this: Your dog’s nose has a scent-detecting “computer hardrive” of 60 square inches as compared to your 1 square inch.


  1. Each dog’s nose – the pattern of the cells and the ridges - is as unique as the fingerprint of a person.


  1. Speaking of finger prints . . . Your dog thinks you smell . . . and he loves it. Your scent is unique to you the same way your fingerprint is. That tidbit is just not all that useful for you humans that cannot detect that “scentprint”, but it is very interesting to us canines.


  1. OK this is kind of gross but humans shed tens of millions (about 50,000,000) skin cells every minute, leaving a scent for dogs to relish. We smell every single cell and that is why we are so great at tracking missing persons or detecting cancer.


  1. You often think you can hide your feelings from us dogs but you cannot outsmart our noses. Anxiety, sadness, fear and a host of other emotions send specific chemicals to the skin surface in your bodies . . . you can hide those things from many of your friends . . . but not from your best friend. We can literally smell your sadness.


Bottom line . . . My sense of smell is simply bow-wow amazing!


. . .  OK . . . gotta go play!