The sense of smell in dogs

The most developed sense in canine, its sense of smell is much more developed than that of humans, about 35 times more, and has many uses! 

The dog has more than 200 million olfactory cells, when we have 5 million. He can feel a track for several days, which is very useful, especially in the search for people, drugs or explosives. Odors are very important for this animal who, naturally, will feel what surrounds it when arriving in a new place to locate, when we use mainly the view. However, dogs aren’t all equal; the brachycephalic ones, with the crushed nose, will have a less developed sense of smell than the hunting dogs for example.

The smells

The perception of smells is very accurate in dogs, but also fast since it can find a 40 times faster than any technology tool! Some canines are able to detect cancers or even a drop in the blood sugar level in the blood of a diabetic person, for example.

That’s not all: a dog can remember a lot of smells of course, but also distinguish them when they are totally undetectable for our noses and up to a concentration 100 million times inferior to what we can feel !

Of course, all those smells that our four-legged friends feel don’t have the same impact on them. Some may even be very anxiety-provoking, while others will be soothing. A stressed dog, for example, leaves an olfactory message that can cause stress in another dog that will feel it. On the contrary, the smell that’s probably the most soothing for Medor will be that of his master. Finally, the females who have just given birth produce, as of the third day of the young, a substance called Apaisine which has the interest to create an attachment between the mother and the puppy. This substance has been synthesized and can be purchased commercially. It can be used if you are welcoming a young puppy to make the transition with his mother or if you have a very stressed animal.


In addition to its nose, the dog has a vomeronasal organ that is in fact a kind of independent olfactory system, located in the palate. It can detect hormones produced by other animals but also humans. Thus, the dog is able to feel when you are stressed, sad or happy. It also allows him to immediately determine if another animal is friend or foe and adapt his behavior accordingly. This organ also has another essential virtue: it allows the quadruped to find a potential partner, with whom to reproduce and thus to perpetuate the species.

All these performances related to smell also come from the brain. The area of the latter devoted to smell represents about 87 m2 in dogs, when it’s only 6m2 in humans. Moreover, another interesting fact, our hairballs sniff on average 10 times per second!

Primordial in dogs, the sense of smell has a big role to play, as well in the locating of a new place, as in the survival of the species. If a strong wind or heat can temporarily disturb the canine olfactory capacity, there is really only the Parainfluenza virus, participating in the kennel cough that can have a real negative impact.

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