10 Thousand Times Better Than Yours: A Dog’s Nose is Nothing To Sneeze About
Researchers at the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University estimate that a dog’s nose is somewhere between 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than a human nose. To put that in perspective, author Alexandra Horowitz in the book, Inside Of a Dog, says that if humans can detect the smell of one teaspoon of sugar in a cup of coffee, the dog equivalent would be one teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic-sized pools.
There are three main reasons why dogs can detect odors better than humans.
- Firstly, they have 300 million scent receptors in their nose compared to the mere 6 million that humans possess. That’s 50 times more smelling power!
- Secondly, air travels differently through a dog’s nose. When humans inhale, all the air that passes through the nose passes into the lungs, but this isn’t the case with dogs. Roughly 14% of the air that dogs take into their body is transported through a series of boney turbinate structures that spread it out over millions of receptors, helping the dog to distinguish the faintest of scents.
- Lastly, the slits on either side of a dog’s nose, along with its floppy ears, circulate air in such a way that additional odors are funneled into their snout. The result? A nearly continuous whiff of whatever they are interested in smelling.
The power of a dog’s nose can’t be overstated. In studies, dogs have been placed on paths that perpendicularly intersect those of a human. Once they cross the human path, dogs are able to discern the direction that the human took by evaluating the strength of the human scent along the trail.
Police and transportation security officers leverage the power of the dog’s nose to sniff out contraband, illegal food or plant imports, and explosives. Dogs can be trained to sniff a patient’s skin and identify if there are any cancerous lesions. Dogs have been known to sense when a person’s blood sugar levels are too high or too low or to anticipate seizures in patients.
If you think that you can mask your true feelings from your dog, think again. Dogs’ powerful sense of smell can detect the cold sweat of your anxiety and other trace indicators you give off when you are afraid, angry or happy. Pay attention to your dog’s behavior the next time you are experiencing a strong feeling. Chances are, you’ll observe your dog sniffing at you to determine what you are really feeling and thinking.
On walks through your neighborhood, your dog may wander at a painfully slow pace, drag you across the street, or spend agonizing minutes smelling a tree or bush while you grow ever late for work. To our blunt sense of smell, this is a painful waste of time, but the dogs are gathering an enormous amount of information from other dogs and other animals in the area. They can determine what the dogs in the area have been eating, how old they are, what sex they are, and how long since they have passed, in addition to other bits of information we have yet to discern.
The power of a dog’s nose…incredible!