Almost everybody has seen a movie with a canine police dog, specifically a Bloodhound, in action, sniffing out the bad guys or lost children. But just how good is a dog’s sense of smell? Scientists say it’s actually between 10,000 and 100,000 times better than ours!
What Does That Compare To?
It is difficult to imagine a scent but if you compare that to vision and imagine that you could see a third of a mile down the road, a dog could see just as well for 3,000 miles. Another way to imagine that mighty sense of smell is to imagine detecting a teaspoon of sugar in a cup of coffee. Well, a dog can notice a teaspoon of sugar added to one million gallons of water; that’s two Olympic pools! One researcher likened it to being able to sniff out one rotten apple amidst two million barrels of apples.
How Do They Do It?
So many dogs out there have been singled out for their astonishing sense of smell. They’ve been able to contribute their wonderful noses to forensics and to science and to the welfare of their companions. Dogs can sniff out criminals, drugs, missing persons, and even detect medical conditions like heart problems, cancers, and more. How are they able to do this? Dogs have an uncanny ability to maximize their nostrils.
Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors while we have only 6 million. Dogs also have a dedicated portion of their brains for analyzing odors that is 40 times more effective than ours. The physiology of a dog’s nose is quite different than a human nose. Whereas humans have one airway to smell and breathe through, dogs have two. One benefit of this is that a portion of what the dog smells is sent directly to an area in the brain for analysis, unlike humans, where the odor simply passes in and out with the fresh air that we breathe.
Dogs not only have advantages as they breathe in odors, they also have an upper hand upon exhalation. As a dog exhales, the air seeps from the slits in the sides of his nose rather than straight out the nostrils. This swirls the air and allows new odors to enter more easily and continuously.
Another advantage that dogs have over humans is their Vomeronasal organ, or Jacobson’s organ. This is how they can detect pheromones. Pheromones are the chemicals that each unique species possess and are related to sex characteristics.
Dogs Are Amazing Creatures
Next time you look at your dog, remember that he is an amazing creature. He has the potential to accomplish great things because of that nose of his. Dogs have served in the Armed Forces, Police Force, and with private parties to change people’s lives for the better. They are true heroes.