Part 5 – Understanding Your Dog’s Senses

Welcome to Part 5 – Smell – of this 5 Part Series on Understanding Your Dog’s Senses.

So far we have discussed Part 1 – Eyesight, Part 2 – Hearing, Part 3 – Touch and Part 4 – Taste

In case you missed them you can click on each and have a read.

In this 5 Part Series I wanted to take a good look at how our dog’s senses worked.  With this knowledge we can now understand how our dog’s navigate the world.

Part 5 – Smell!

Sense of Smell is your dog’s SUPERPOWER!

Humans have around 6 million smell (olfactory) receptors in our noses, dogs have 300 million!!!!

When puppies are born their eyesight and hearing don’t develop until 10-14 days, so their sense of smell (& touch) is how they find their mother.

The part of our fur baby’s brain that is purely for analysing smells is around 40 times more awesome than ours.

Dogs interpret their world through their noses and humans generally do this through their eyes.

I know that when a dog turns up for grooming they will sniff the shrubs under the letter box and the ones further down on the corner of the garden.  Why?  Because this is where they all pee and this is where they all sniff.  I call it the Internet cafe for dogs, they send their ‘wee mail’ and sniff other’s ‘wee mail’!

The dogs are gathering information off the other dogs that have been there!

It’s the same for the Salon, when the dogs first enter and the door is closed, I take off their leads and collars and give them time to run around the Salon and take in all the dog smells.  I can bet that they could tell me each and every other dog that has been in the salon.  No amount of cleaning is going to hide it from their sense of smell.


We humans shake hands/air kiss cheeks to say hello, then use other senses to gain information about the person we just met and even then sometimes we can still be wrong!!!

To humans, sniffing butts is gross!!!  To our fur kids this is a way they gain information off other dogs.  Besides, Butt Information doesn’t lie!!!!!

Sniffing butts is the equivalent of a human handshake, only much more reliable!!!



I’m going to say this again, a dog’s nose is so superior to ours it’s not funny.


Dog’s nostrils are comma shaped which creates a swirl with the incoming air in order for the scent molecules to circulate thoroughly in the nose.

A dog can flare their nostrils to draw in even more air.  The dog’s nostrils and whole nose will stay moist in order for it to dissolve and release scent particles.


Diagram of a dog nose

Above diagram helps to illustrate how a dog’s nose and the nostrils work.


b) Olfactory Receptor Cells 

They provide the main reason dogs are awesome at smell and here’s why –

i. there are stacks of them;

ii. the cells end in cilia (tiny hair like filaments that protrude out into the nose).  Each cell is coated in mucous and both the cilia and mucous help trap the cell particles;

iii) the olfactory cells connect with the nerve endings that lead to the olfactory lobe (a structure in the dog’s brain).  This is the size of a small pea in humans but the size of a walnut in dogs.  Which means dog’s have much more brain power for smells than we do!!!


c) Jacobson’s Organ (aka Vomeronasal Organ)

This runs along the floor of the nose (roof of the mouth) starting just behind the canine teeth.  Human’s do not have this.  It connects directly with the olfactory lobe via nerve bundles.

At first it was thought Jacobson’s organ was only for scenting sex related pheromones for dogs.  However, it’s now been associated with the dog’s ability to ‘scent’ water!

This basically allows dogs to smell objects underwater without them inhaling!!!

It’s like having part of a nose in your mouth!!!


view inside dog's mouth of vomeronasal organ

 Diagram of Jacobson’s organ  inside dog’s mouth 


While humans acclimatise to smell dogs can register the same smell for hours, days and sometimes weeks later.

I know that after I spray cologne on the 2nd dog of the day that I won’t be able to smell it again until the next day unless I change fragrances.

Our fur kids sense of smell is amazing.  I know if I have a late finish and am seeing a client and canine out to their car, I immediately pick up the ‘dinner’ time smells (purely because I’m hungry).  I start recognising the smell of a barbecue or a roast etc.

The dogs however can tell you exactly what meat is being cooked, what vegetables are on and each herb and spice is being used etc.  They can really microscopically and then some hone in to what is being cooked!!!!

Dogs can actually smell fear for real!  When someone is fearful they produce sweat from different glands than the normal hot sweaty glands!  Dog can pick up the change in which glands are producing sweat.

Dogs sense of smell is so superior they can pick up smells that even hard core equipment can’t even begin to register.

Why else would they be used for military work, police work, border security work, search and rescue work, assistance work with people who suffer seizures etc?  Dogs can even sniff out cancer!!  I am in such awe!!




It doesn’t matter what breed (or size of your dog’s nose) their sense of smell is far more awesome and superior than ours.

When out for walks let your dog sniff and mark!  It’s important to them with regards to gaining information about their environment and other dogs that have been there.

Let your dog’s sniff butts, it’s not gross!

Try not to use harsh smelling products around your dog’s bedding, collars, leads and anywhere they are.

Dog’s can smell underwater!

I’ll repeat dog’s have 300million smell receptors (to our measly 6million), that alone says it all.


I hope you enjoyed reading about your Dog’s Superpower.  Does your fur baby sniff everything in sight?  Do you let your dog sniff and mark when out for a walk?

Billy and I would love to hear from you.

Thank you for being part of this 5 Part Series on Understanding Your Dog’s Senses, we hope it helped understanding your fur baby that little bit more.

I know it helped me.



J & B

Woofalcious Tales

Leave A Comment

Leave a Barking Reply, I'd love to hear from you!