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The Nose Knows

Close your eyes and take a few very slow, deep breaths and imagine for a minute your most favorite dessert at the very moment it comes out of the oven, steaming and crackling with the most scrumptious aroma filling the air around you. You wait in anticipation, fork in hand, nearly drooling for that first bite. Do you feel something different about yourself right now? Is your mouth watering and are you suddenly craving that special dessert?

Just think if that craving was magnified times 10,000. The fact is, dogs have olfactory abilities unmatched among any other species in the animal kingdom. Dogs’ sense of smell overpowers our own by orders of magnitude estimated to be 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute. Dr. James Walker, former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University, explained it this way,

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Overpowering Olfactories

“Dogs’ sense of smell overpowers our own by orders of magnitude estimated to be 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute.”

“If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away and still see as well.” (Walker, 2003)

It is with this special sense of smell that dogs are able to detect the most minute amount of a scent whether it be tracking the scent of a bird on the hunt, helping ATF agents screen luggage for contraband and even detecting early biochemical signals of cancers.

(Walker, 2003) Walker, J.C. et al. 2003. “Human odor detectability: New methodology used to determine threshold and variation.” Chemical Senses 28: 817-826.

(Horowitz, 2009) Horowitz, A. 2009. Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. Scribner.

(Craven, 2010) Craven, B.A. et al. 2010. “The fluid dynamics of canine olfaction: unique nasal airflow patterns as an explanation of macrosmia.” Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 6 June 2010, 7(47): 933-943.

(Fogle, 1990) Fogle, B. 1990. The Dog’s Mind: Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior. MacMillan.

(Pagaet, 2003) Pageat P, Gaultier E. 2003. Current research in canine and feline pheromones. Veterinary Clinics of North America Small Animals 33: 187-211.

(Landsberg, 1997) Landsberg G, Hunthausen W, Ackerman L 1997. Handbook of behaviour problems of the dog and cat. Butterworth Heinemann, pp 47-63.

(Tynes, 2015) Tynes, Valarie. Board-certified veterinary behaviorist. Personal correspondence. December 2, 2015. Client Handout: Understand your pet’s fear posted 9/8/15

(Hardin, 2015) Hardin DS, Anderson W, Cattet J 2015. “Dogs Can Be Successfully Trained to Alert to Hypoglycemia Samples from Patients with Type 1 Diabetes.” Diabetes Therapy. 1-9.

(, 2015) Fear-Free Center accessed 12/2/15 at