Let Them Sniff! 5 Fascinating Facts About Your Dog’s Nose

It’s no secret that dogs love to sniff, but have you ever wondered why? Let’s learn some fascinating facts about Fido’s nose!

Nov 23, 2023By Lauren Rey
let them sniff facts about your dogs nose

As most dog owners know, as soon as they step outside, their dog’s nose is on the ground, and it’s probably going to be there for a while. Some may even get frustrated with the amount of time their four-legged friend spends sniffing instead of walking or going potty, but it’s important to remember that sniffing is how dogs “see” things. Let’s take a deep dive into the wonderful world of dog noses — how they work and why it’s important to let them sniff!

5. Dogs “See” Through Their Noses

dog sniffing grass
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While humans rely on vision as their main sense to interpret their surroundings, dogs primarily rely on their sense of smell. With a quick sniff, a dog can tell a whole lot about their new surroundings, including any people and other animals that are nearby.

It is also believed that dogs can smell in 3-D. Similar to how a human’s eyes work independently, compiling two different pictures that are then combined in the brain to form a 3-D view, a dog’s nostrils do the same. Each side works independently, detecting different scent profiles. The dog’s brain then uses these scent profiles to “picture” the source. A fascinating process that contributes to how dogs “see” the world around them.

So the next time you get the urge to tug on the leash and say, “let’s go,” take a moment and let them sniff! Your dog is just trying to “see” what’s going on.

4. You Can’t Fool a Dog’s Nose

airport security dog
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There’s an old saying, “A dog’s nose knows,” and that couldn't ring more true! Ever seen a Beagle sniffing bags at the airport or a Bloodhound hot on the trail of a missing person? There’s a reason dogs are put to work in detection roles, sniffing out all sorts of things for law enforcement. Dog’s noses are incredible detection devices with over 100 million sensory receptor sites, a whole more than a human’s 6 million.

Ever tried to hide a new toy or treat “for later” only to find your four-legged friend rummaging through bags, pawing at cabinet doors, or attempting to counter-surf? As any dog owner can attest, fooling a dog’s nose is not easy!

3. Dogs Can Smell Things That Humans Can’t

dogs sniffing each other
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We already know that dogs have much more sensitive noses than humans, but did you know they can also smell things we can’t? Like pheromones, feelings, and even time!

Dogs have an additional olfactory organ that humans don’t. The vomeronasal organ, sometimes also called the Jacobson’s organ, helps dogs detect odors that humans can’t, like pheromones. The vomeronasal organ is mostly used for reproduction and birthing and is how dogs “communicate” with each other prior to mating. It’s also how newborn puppies identify their mother.

While it’s long been theorized that dogs can “smell fear,” in recent years, science has actually proven it. Recent studies show that dogs can smell chemosignals, the odors that humans emit due to emotional states. This means that they can, in fact, smell fear, as well as happiness and possibly other emotions. So, if you’ve ever wondered how your dog is so in tune with your emotions, they just may be able to smell them on you!

dogs waiting by door
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Dogs can also smell time, well — sort of! Dogs can learn to “track” how long their owners have been gone and when to anticipate their return based on scent molecules left in the room. The longer their owner is away, the more the scent dissipates. Over time, dogs begin to learn their owner’s routine and associate the amount of smell left in the air with the average return time. As many dog owners have attested, their dogs seem to know when a family member is about to come home and will often head to the door to wait for them at the same time every day, like clockwork.

2. Some Dogs Are Super Sniffers

scent hound
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While all dogs have a great sense of smell and love to sniff, some breeds were just born to sniff! These super sniffers, more formally known as scent hounds, are dog breeds that were selectively bred throughout history for their incredible sense of smell, as well as other characteristics that were used for hunting and tracking.

The scent hound group includes breeds such as Beagles, Bloodhounds, Fox Hounds, Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, and many more. With the types of bloodsports and trophy hunts that these dogs were traditionally used for thankfully becoming less popular (and even banned in some areas), many scent hounds have found new roles within law enforcement. From sniffing out illegal narcotics and agricultural products to tracking down missing children and helping locate victims after natural disasters, scent hounds are employed in many different roles.

Certain scent hound breeds, like Beagles, also make popular family pets. Owners of scent hound breeds need to be patient and prepared for plenty of sniff walks. After all, not letting a scent hound sniff is like denying them their favorite toy or treat. Be sure you’re meeting the needs of the breed by letting them sniff!

1. Sniffing Equals Happiness

happy dog sniffing
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Sniffing is a natural behavior for dogs, it’s mentally stimulating, soothing, and can even help boost dopamine levels — the “happy” hormone. Dogs that are allowed to engage in sniffing are often happier, more relaxed, and mentally fulfilled. Of course, we all want that for our dogs, right?

Letting your dog sniff on regular walks is just one way to provide an outlet for this natural behavior. Other ways include things like puzzle toys, snuffle mats, nose work games, or even a visit to a Sniffspot. These are all great options to give your dog a fun enrichment activity.

Of course, satisfying your dog’s need to sniff doesn’t have to require anything fancy. One of the best activities you can do with your dog is to simply take them for a walk, be patient, and let them sniff!

Lauren Rey
By Lauren Rey

A lover of all animals, Lauren’s background is in the veterinary world, but she is now a content writer on travel, wildlife, and all things pets! She’s based in Florida, but when not writing, she’s usually plotting out a new road trip route with her partner-in-crime. Pickles is a mixed-breed rescue dog that loves hiking, road trips, and Starbucks just as much as her mom does!