Dogs have a great sense of smell. They can detect even the tiniest of scents and follow a trail of smells over long distances. At the airport, they help track down banned substances in travelers’ luggage. They are therefore often used to search for missing people, for example after earthquakes or accidents.
Dogs have a much larger nose
The fact that dogs can smell so well has to do with their nose. This is larger in most dogs than in humans. Then inside there is a bony nasal concha. This is very strongly coiled in dogs – and therefore much larger than in humans. The olfactory mucosa sits on this nasal concha. It’s also much larger in dogs. In humans, the two mucous membranes together are about ten square centimeters, the area of half a matchbox. That of a German Shepherd, for example, is huge in comparison. It can be more than 150 square centimeters.
Dogs have about 20 times more olfactory cells than humans
The olfactory cells in turn sit on this olfactory mucosa. Most dog breeds probably have more than 200 million of them! In humans, there are about ten million. Dogs’ olfactory cells are very sensitive. The olfactory threshold is much lower in dogs, the expert explains, which is why the olfactory cells react to the tiniest amounts. Sometimes one molecule is enough. Fragrance molecules are very small particles in the air. Animals that can smell so well are also called macrosmats, or nose animals. This includes not only dogs, but also rodents such as mice or deer.
The fact that they can smell well does not apply to all breeds.
A pug, for example, perceives smells less well than a German shepherd. It has to do with the nose. Pugs don’t have a real snout anymore. Her face is fairly flat with many wrinkles and the nose is extremely small. Unfortunately, this also comes from breeding. But due to the small nose, the nostrils and airways are often severely narrowed. As a result, many of these animals have constant breathing problems. They wheeze and snore too. Also, pugs can’t run as fast as other dogs.
More about dogs and their sense of smell: Der Dog and his nose – what the four-legged friend can smell with his nose and deduce from it.
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