Have you ever wondered how your dog senses smells? The idea of how dogs perceive the world around them using their sense of sight is known to a lot of pet owners. But how does a dog smell his environment, how does his sense of smell work and how does it differ from our sense of smell? Below, we will address all of these questions.
People usually consider the sense of smell to be of lesser importance than sight. In a dog’s world, this hierarchy is not so obvious and clear. For animals from the Canidae family the sense of smell plays the dominant role in their cognitive processes. Compared to people, dogs’ noses are much more sensitive and developed.
The most developed sense in dogs is smell. It is through smell that dogs take in the reality that surrounds them. The most developed areas of dogs’ brains are responsible for processing smells. Therefore, while we are taking in the world through images, our fluffy friend is perceiving it through fragrances.
Dogs’ noses smell differently than those of humans. Human brains get used to new smells overtime and eventually ignore them. Dog’s on the other hand, continue to smell even familiar scents with the same level of intensity. What’s more, dogs’ noses are able to distinguish a lot more smells than any human being ever could. The superiority of dog’s olfactory abilities is more than a thousand times better than that of any human.
The construction of dogs’ noses is largely responsible for their great sense of smell. The interior of a dog’s nose is lined with a thick membrane that has a spongy structure. This is where the cells responsible for the recognition of odours are located. Their task is to absorb the odours with which the dog comes in contact and through nervous connections, provide information about them to the brain. What’s more, for some dogs, the membrane within their noses has an area of almost 400 cm2, which is almost 60 times more than a human nasal epithelium. Compared to dogs, who have between 120 to 300 million receptor cells, humans only have 5 million. It is this rather specific structure of the nose that makes dogs perfect trackers.
The internal membrane covered with receptors is not the only nasal feature that helps dogs process smells and odours. An additional support for dogs’ sense of smell is the fact that their noses are constantly wet. This feature improves the distinction of odours. Fragrance molecules floating in the air, after contact with the dog’s wet nose, immediately dissolve. It allows them to absorb it easily by a dog’s olfactory receptors.
Dogs can perfectly distinguish even very similar smells. What’s more, they are able to sense a lot of smells that are undetectable to humans and even many other animal species. Dogs are also considered to have excellent olfactory memory. It’s surprising how dogs can recognize smells they have not had any contact with for a long time. What’s more, scientists estimate that without major problems, dogs can distinguish and assimilate about 600,000 fragrances that are different from each other. If this number seams impressive for you -than how about the fact that dogs not only remember so many smells, but also are able to associate certain smells with given situations, people or objects. Dogs are perfect creatures, aren’t they?
High temperatures make it difficult for dogs to catch and correctly recognize odours. This is because in order to effectively sniff, a dog must have its mouth closed. This is unfeasible in hot weather, because dogs need to open their mouths to cool down their bodies. Overheating a dog’s body can decrease his olfactory abilities by as much as 40%.
The unique possibilities offered by a dog’s sense of smell are used to help people in a wide variety of ways. The highly developed olfactory abilities of dogs are extremely useful in hunting and rescue endeavours, as well as, police and military operations.
Dogs’ use sense of smell in rescue missions primarily as a way to aid in tracking. Dogs, through their unique ability to follow the trail of a given fragrance, are the perfect companions for any kind of search. With the help of their expert sense of smell, dogs are able to reach lost or victims of abduction. Dogs find people amongst the mass and debris of avalanches as well.
The ability that dogs have to identify a large number of fragrances is also used by military and police services. The task of such dogs is to accompany patrols while searching for drugs, weapons or explosives. In addition, these dogs can easily recognize the smell of narcotics or gunpowder and locate the place where they are.
Dogs’ sense of smell also helps in finding corpses located both on land and in water. They can sense the smell of blood from far away and easily follow a scent trail, leading authorities towards a victim.
Dogs are an invaluable help in finding missing persons. During search missions, police officers are accompanied by a multitude of dog hunters who can follow the smell of a lost person even in highly difficult conditions. As a result, it is often dogs that bring about a successful end to many rescue missions.
During hunting, dogs help hunters locate game. They can track animals at surprisingly long distances. Dogs recognize the smell of their victim and then tirelessly search until they reveal its hideout.
Our four-legged friends’ sense of smell is incomparably better than humans’. Dogs can sense a potential threat even if we are not yet able to see it. For ages, humans have used the exceptional olfactory abilities of dogs during hunting expeditions. Nowadays, we also make use of dogs’ exceptional sense of smell in other ways.
Today, dogs are an inseparable part of many police departments and army guards. From an early age, dogs are trained for activities on professional duty. Dogs can help find missing people, and locate dangerous or forbidden substances.
Their olfactory skills are invaluable to humans.