It’s not just for cute boops… A dog’s nose is probably one of the most fascinating things about them. So much so that I am dedicating another post to the dog’s nose and incredible sense of smell.
I love watching my boys noses, how they follow an invisible story, the tiny twitches, the hunger of the unknown and exciting information they greedily breathe in. They are both into this ritual, yet I often wonder how Coop and Fred perceive this world based on their experiences of scents.
Coop is certainly a good sniffer, but the boy is mostly interested in pee mail. And flowers. Fred, on the other hand, has the nose of canine dreams! He doesn’t care about the mail, but he always informs me if somebody we know is around the corner, a dog just walked through the village, or there’s a cat, bunny or pheasant nearby (by “nearby” I mean distance on Fred’s sniffing terms – it covers miles…) And both are definitely aware of food smells and do react to any emotional and hormone-related changes in us.
We know that dogs rely on their sense of smell and hearing more than vision. Does it mean that even my chaps, whilst being canines, would actually see the world around us as two completely different environments? The geek in me keeps playing with this idea a lot.
But is it exactly that makes a dog’s nose so unique?
It has about 250 million receptors responsible for detecting scents. Humans only have 5 million. We are pretty basic.
Dogs can bond with their littermates and humans through scent and detest strangers and non-litter pups because of it. In a study a dog was presented with 5 different scents including his own, a familiar human, a strange human, a familiar dog and a strange dog. Only the scent of the familiar human triggered the response in the brain area responsible for positive emotions, rewards and “romantic interactions”. In other words, the pups knew who is responsible for the biscuits.
Even more fascinating, dogs can differentiate between two identical twins if the twins were fed different diets or raised in different environments.
If a teaspoon of sugar was dissolved in two Olympic-sized swimming pools, dogs would be able to smell it.
Dog’s ability to sniff is breed-dependent. In a 1965 experiment by Scott and Fuller, a mouse was left in an acre-sized field. Beagles located it within a minute. A fox terrier took 15. A Scotty literally stood by the mouse and still failed to see it. I suspect if a bloodhound (the clear champion of sniffing) was around he’d be by that mouse in seconds.
Cockers, on the other hand, proved themselves as fabulous drug detectors.
Dogs can track a person days after his or her disappearance as long as there’s about 1/1000 of human scent left on the ground.
They can also confirm or deny if two odours are from the same source, identify separate ingredients in a bowl of soup, or detect substances used in explosions despite the presence of any debris.
Dogs can smell cancer, covid, changes in blood sugar or body pre-seizure.
A blind dog will always follow his nose. It is what can help him adjust to his new life and stay tuned in without panicking.
Dogs smell better in humid conditions, and struggle to smell effectively when they feel really hot.
Dogs who frequently eat coconut oil may have a reduced ability to detect scents.
And canines diagnosed with hyperadrenocorticism, hypothyroidism, or diabetes can also struggle to use their nose as nature intended.
Next time you look at your pup’s snout, take a moment to appreciate its wonders that we will never experience or truly comprehend… And follow your dog’s nose…
Photo credit: Cooper photographed by me