power of a dogs noseWe all know that dogs have an impressive power of smell. Your dog is in the back of the house, sound asleep. You quietly open a package of ham for a sandwich and look who’s immediately begging at your feet! That’s the power of a dogs nose.

Sniffing out snacks is the least in a list of amazing ways that dogs and their super sniffers improve our lives. You’ll be surprised at the many ways they are aiding humans.

First, How Does a Dog’s Nose Do It?

When you take your dog for a walk, he wants to stop and sniff everything! That’s because dogs “see” with their noses. Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to only about 6 million in ours. That means that a dog can analyze smells about 40 times better than you and me and it is how they get a “picture” of their world.

How do their noses benefit humans? Dogs have helped police and security for many years in these well-known roles:

  • Narcotics Detection Dogs — locates narcotics in luggage and packages, in vehicles and buildings. Their sniffers are so good they can even locate drugs in yards and agricultural areas.  
  • Explosives Detection Dogs — works independently at a long distance with the help of hand signals or voice commands. Some dogs are trained to work with an advanced camera system on their heads while their progress is watched from a distance on a portable video screen.
  • Search and Rescue Dogs — finds survivors and the deceased in rubble after a disaster. They’re also used by law enforcement to find missing persons and drowning victims.
  • Security Patrol Dogs — captures running or hidden suspects and escorts them to their handlers.

This is just the start. Humans are finding more and more areas where dogs can aid us through their super canine sense of smell. Let’s look at some you may not be aware of:

  • Unlawful Technology — Dogs can now work with law enforcement officials in finding contraband. They sniff out black market technology and contraband in prisons. One dog, Bear, sniffed out a thumb drive that contained child pornography. It belonged to Jared Fogle, Subway’s spokesperson at the time.
  • Avocados — A fungus from ambrosia beetles has caused the death of more than 300 million laurel trees in the USA alone. The scrumptious avocado happens to be in the laurel tree family.

Dogs have been used to sniff out diseased trees before they show signs of external damage. Once external symptoms are detected, it’s generally too late to save the tree or its neighbors. Just think of all the avocado crops these dogs have saved!

  • Poaching — These dogs protect wildlife, tracking down poachers by detecting human scents as well as firearms and snares.
  • Cancer — A dog by the name of Lucy learned to sniff out bladder, kidney and prostate cancer. During a study, she detected cancer correctly more than 95% of the time–better than some lab tests used for diagnosis.
  • Diabetes — By the smell of their human’s breath and sweat, dogs have learned to signal diabetics that they have become hypoglycemic. This allows them to act quickly rather than needing to call for the aid of paramedics, be hospitalized, or fall into a coma.
  • Mosquitos — An experiment was done with a dog named Dana, where she sniffed out deadly disease-ridden mosquitos during Africa’s dry season. Finding pockets of these pests allowed human trackers to kill them before the wet season. Due to political unrest, the experiment was cancelled.
  • Termite Detection Dogs — Recognized by the National Pest Control Association as a useful industrial tool, a dogs’ findings are admissible as evidence in litigation over termite damage.

Now you know how dogs use their noses, and how their noses help us. The next time you take your dog for a walk, let him sniff. He may want to “see” everything that’s been going on in the neighborhood.

Give him a pat from us at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services. We’re continually awed and amazed at the many ways our dogs selflessly make our lives better.