We all know dogs have a heightened sense of smell as compared to us human, but few of us realize just how powerful their olfactory prowess is. It provides them with far more information than we get from our noses, and in a much more complex way. Among the many benefits they provide, their sophisticated sniffers are also a key part of how assistance dogs can so reliably warn their people partners about oncoming panic attacks, seizures, and other problems.
Here are some interesting facts about how dogs smell:
- The moist, textured exterior of canine noses helps capture scents
- Dogs can smell separately through each nostril, simultaneously detecting different odors
- This lets them easily determine where the sources of smells are located
- A dog’s nasal passage for smell has 300 million highly developed olfactory receptor cells (compared to the mere 5 million humans have)
- We breathe in and out of the same holes in our nose, but dogs inhale through their nostrils and exhale through slits in the sides of their nose
- This creates a perpetually swirling motion of air that allows for more odors and higher concentrations of odors to build up
- An exponentially larger portion of the canine brain is devoted to deciphering scent information than in humans
- Dogs can detect scents at concentrations up to 100 million times less than people can
- A second olfactory system detects and deciphers hormones that all animals release, including people
- This separate scent system identifies potential mates and distinguishes between hostile and harmless animals
- It also informs dogs about human moods, detects pregnancy and sickness, and gives assistance dogs their early-warning abilities
- Dogs construct time lines based on scents, determining where people or animals have gone and when by the strength of lingering scents
- They can also “see the future,” telling what’s coming by scents carried on the breeze long before it’s visible or audible
When it comes to our dogs, one of their true super powers is their awesome sense of smell.