A dog’s nose is an impressive tool that can smell in 3-D

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Dog Nose -- Hot Mess Press

A dog’s nose is its most powerful attribute. Did you know a dog breathes in and out at the same time? I bet not. And that is not the only surprising fact about Doggo’s snoz. The common belief that a wet-nosed dog is a healthy dog is not necessarily true. What is true is that a coating of wet mucus on a dog’s nose helps effective capturing of scent particles. Their sense of smell allows them to find food, offspring and mates, to avoid predators among many other things.

Dalmation Licking nose
Licking nose to capture scent particles

Your dog’s dual-function nose

The structure of a dog’s nose separates the air it breathes in. Some of it travels to the area that distinguishes scent — the olfactory. The rest of the air goes to the lungs. The olfactory bulb is responsible for the sense of smell, an area of the brain where all the scent organs come together. In comparison, a human’s olfactory bulb is only about one-quarter the size of a dog’s.

Dog nose slits
Slits in dog’s nose
Credit: pixfuel

The function of those slits in Doggo’s nose

Have you ever wondered why your dog has those slits on the sides of his nostrils? They enable the dog to breathe air in and out simultaneously. How neat is that? We breathe in or out, but not both at once. Doggo’s reliance on his sense of smell is so significant that he cannot stop breathing and smelling every time he breathes out. When he exhales, he sends the air out through those slits. That prevents the exhaled air and the scents in the inhaled air from mixing in the nostrils.

dog nostrils

A dog’s nose smells in 3-D

How amazing is this? A dog uses its nostrils as two separate devices to send odor profiles to the brain. Our eyes send different images to the brain, which then renders a 3-D picture of what we see. The same happens when the dog’s brain combines the separate odor profiles, allowing the dog to determine smelly objects’ locations.

Pug snout
Short-nosed dog

Dogs can determine passage of time by sniffing

By sniffing the ground, tracking dogs can figure out the direction in which another animal or person moved. When tracking, the dog detects the minuscule reductions in odor molecule concentrations. Starting at the lowest concentration to the highest as it closes in on the prize. To optimize their sense of smell when tracking a specific scent, they speed up their breathing. Furthermore, they open their nostrils wider to increase the capacity to pull air into their nostrils.

German Shepherd dog
Tracking dog
Credit: pixfuel

Training improves scent-tracking skills

The training tracking dogs receive improves and optimizes skills they already have. They learn to focus on only the smells of the “hunted.” In the process, they must ignore thousands of irrelevant scents on the track. Additional skills allow search dogs to identify the air-scents by smelling the wind. Have you noticed your dog sniffing the air when it comes into the kitchen to locate the location of a tempting smell of something to eat?

Dog Nose Olfactory
Olfactory Receptors

A dog’s nose is its most powerful attribute

Scientists suggest that a dog’s smell sense is up to 100,000 times better than humans. The reason for that is that a dog has approximately 50 scent receptors for each one receptor we have. A dog’s nose is equipped with about 300 million olfactory receptors, compared to six million receptors in humans. Furthermore, the olfactory bulb where the scents come together in the dog’s brain for interpretation is approximately 40 times the size of ours.

To put this in perspective with an analogy, a dog’s sense of smell is sensitive enough to detect half a teaspoon of sugar in a swimming pool, the size of an Olympic pool.

Schnauzer face
Credit: pxfuel

Doggo can detect your mood

Along with the mood you are in, your dog can detect fear, sadness and anxiety, and if you feel a bit under the weather, your dog will notice that too and show concern.

Bulldog sleeping
Short-nosed Bulldog

Some breeds are better equipped than others

Although all dogs have exceptional smelling skills, some breeds have stronger sniffers than others. Long-nosed dogs like Labradors and German Shepherds rank among the better smellers. However, those cute short-nosed dogs like bulldogs and pugs have limited space in their snozes for scent receptors than the long-nosed dogs.

So, whether you dog is long-nosed or short-nosed, don’t think you can hide anything from them.

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