The dog’s most acute sense is their sense of smell, and this is the sense that they rely upon above all others – unlike us humans, who generally rely upon sight first and sound second. All dog owners know that a dog’s sense of smell is much better than ours, and that dogs can smell things that are much fainter and further away than we can – but even taking this into account, there is a lot more to your dog’s nose than meets the eye!
If you want to learn more about how your dog’s nose works, learn some cool trivia facts to impress your friends or simply test your knowledge of man’s best friend, this article will share six interesting things that you might not already know about your dog’s nose and sense of smell. Read on to learn more.
If you’ve ever seen your dog concentrating hard on a faint or distant scent or smelling something unusual or interesting, you might notice that they will often do this with their mouths slightly open. This is because your dog’s nose isn’t their only scenting organ – dogs actually have another scenting organ that humans do not possess, and this one is located in the roof of their mouths.
It’s called Jacobson’s Organ or the vomeronasal organ, and it is an essential element of canine communication and interaction as well as scenting. This is because Jacobson’s Organ is specially designed to identify chemicals and pheromones, which are essential for mating, greetings, and recognising familiar dogs and people.
As we all know, our noses (and those of our dogs) are used for not only smelling things, but breathing too – but your dog’s body actually physically splits the air that they inhale through their noses, with the bulk of it being inhaled as part of respiration, while the rest of it is channelled to and interpreted by the olfactory senses, and translated into your dog’s scent picture of the world around them.
A unique skill that some humans – generally musicians – can sometimes master with lots of work and training is called circular breathing, and this is a technique provides the ability to both inhale and exhale simultaneously – which if you’re trying it out yourself now that you’ve heard of it, might seem like a physical impossibility.
Whilst only certain people can master this skill and take a lot of work to get there, for dogs, it comes naturally – and a dog that is sniffing around essentially sets up a cyclical breathing pattern that allows them to inhale and exhale all at once, producing a moving scent picture – like a movie, rather than a photograph.
Unless you cover one nostril to inhale or exhale (or one side of your nose is blocked) you as a human smell with both of your nostrils simultaneously – but dogs can utilise both of their nostrils separately and simultaneously to take in and interpret different scents.
This gives them a kind of 3-D scenting ability that their brains use to put together a full depth colour picture of the world through scent, something that we as humans cannot do.
You might be well aware that your dog’s sense of smell is much more acute and sensitive than your own, but do you know exactly how much? Well, when it comes to the number of scenting receptors we as humans have in our noses, we’re looking at around six million at the top end – but for dogs, it’s over three hundred million, and that’s just the receptors themselves.
When it comes to how dogs interpret smells, which takes place in the brain, the area of the brain that takes care of this is over forty times larger in the dog than it is in humans. This means that not only can dogs pick up more scents than us, but what they can make of the information and the picture they build up from it is much more vivid and comprehensive than us, in ways that we don’t even fully understand today.
If your dog gets a cold or suffers from allergies – or otherwise has a health issue that causes their sense of smell to be compromised, it has a much more acute effect on them than you might expect.
At its simplest, it would be almost like a person waking up one morning, opening their eyes and finding themselves unable to see – so acute is the effect that a sudden loss of scenting ability has on your dog. Fortunately, the additional scenting organ in the roof of the mouth that we alluded to earlier on helps to counteract this, and of course, your dog’s other senses pick up the slack in the meantime – but it is quite disorienting for your dog when they cannot s