It is common knowledge that dogs have a better sense of smell than humans.
Some breeds have a sense of smell that can be up to 100,000 times more powerful than humans’. This means that they can pick up scents further than we can imagine, but how far exactly?
Keep reading this article if you want to learn more about your dog’s sense of smell. We’ll share with you all the information you’ll need to understand your dog senses, how far they can smell, and which dog breeds can smell the farthest.
How Much Do Dogs Rely On Smells?
Scent As a Way of Communication
Dogs use many ways to communicate with humans, other animals, and other dogs. They can use sounds like barks, yelps, and whines or use their movements like with their tails.
However, one of the main ways they communicate with each other is through smell. Through smells, they can identify the gender of another dog or animal and whether they are in heat or not.
Odors and scents can also communicate whether another dog is aggressive or friendly. It is the way they understand chains of command.
Smell As a Way To Understand The World
Dogs have incredible sight, far better than humans’. However, their sight is nothing compared to their sense of smell.
Dogs use their noses as a way to understand the world around them. They can tell whether a situation is dangerous or when someone is friendly just by smelling.
Their noses work 24/7 to help them locate important things or find the path back home. That’s why they sniff everything and everyone new. It’s their way to understand things better.
Smell As a Tool To Hunt
Dogs are natural hunters, at least the original dog breeds, and that’s why they need to be able to identify their prey. A dog nose contains thousands of muscles working in ways that are not possible for humans. Their noses can catch the scent of animals from miles or kilometers away.
Back in the days when dogs were wild animals, they needed to use their smells to locate food. This is similar to what wolves do. Once they pick up a scent, they can track down prey using only their noses.
Smell As a Way To Help Humans
Today, dogs use their sense of smell for essential jobs. They help humans detect dangerous materials like drugs, explosives and even use their noses to detect diseases.
Another way dogs use their sense of smell is to help rescue teams locate missing people. It is important to note that dogs are the only domesticated animals that can help humans thanks to their senses.
Other animals like birds or horses use instinct and skill. That’s the reason dogs have some of the most impressive animal jobs in the world.
As you can see, dogs use their smell for many different situations, and they rely on it to understand the world. They use their sense of smell to survive, to communicate, and to help us.
How Far Can They Actually Smell?
The reach of their smell will depend on the breed, the age, and how healthy a dog is.
Some breeds were bred to help humans hunting or finding objects or people. Other breeds were meant to be house companions, and therefore, their sense of smell is less potent.
In the right conditions, which considers air direction and scent type, dogs can smell as far as 20 km (12.4 miles). It means that dogs have one of the most potent noses in the animal world. Their smell reach is only surpassed by bears and some cats, who can smell as far as 30km (18.6 miles).
Even if your dog is a house dog that enjoys playing and resting all day, they do have a powerful sense of smell that you can quickly train. If you want to train your dog to find things, you can play some games that encourage that behavior. Hide treats around the house and let your dog find them.
Overall, all dogs possess the ability to use their sense of smell. If you encourage their use of it, then they will use it more efficiently.
Dog Breeds That Can Smell Farthest
All dogs have a powerful sense of smell, but not all of them have the same ability to detect things with their noses.
Some breeds were born with a sense of smell that can reach up to 20km (12.4 miles) in the right conditions.
Here are the dog breeds that have the best sense of smell:
Sausage dogs or Dachshunds are a breed that might seem odd at first sight but have an interesting background.
They were bred to hunt badgers, and they can do it on the ground or below it. Their small legs allow them to enter the badger’s underground dwellings, and they are tough enough to fight them there.
Dachshund means badger dog in German, and they can be found in two sizes. The bigger ones will hunt badgers, while the smallest ones are excellent fox hunters.
Their noses contain around 125 million scent receptors, which they use to track their prey for miles. They are obedient, loyal, and have a happy personality, making them one of the world’s most popular breeds.
Golden Retrievers are the descendants of the now-extinct Tweed Water Spaniel. They are great hunting companions, thanks to their strong noses and extreme intelligence. Goldens were bred to help hunters retrieve animals from lakes, and they achieve it by being excellent swimmers.
They are one of the smartest breeds in the world. Golden Retrievers are perfect for therapy, guiding blind people, and for search and rescue. They can learn complicated commands, and their happy personalities make them one of the most popular breeds globally.
Goldens can detect scents that could be undetectable for most dogs. That’s why Goldens are used to help kids with allergies avoid foods with peanuts.
This breed is also known for being one of the best family dogs, thanks to its playful and loyal nature.
Black and Tan Coonhounds
Coonhounds like the Black and Tan Coonhounds can perceive a scent and track it during the night. They are the perfect night hunter companions because they use their distinctive baying sound to help humans find them in the darkness.
They are easier to train than other Coonhounds, and they are highly athletic to withstand long periods of hunting.
Blueticks are the best raccoon hunters you can find. They can hunt even during the coldest days, as their noses can detect scents even while it is snowing. Their skills make them the best hunters from all the Coonhounds, but they are a bit more challenging to train.
This breed requires a lot of exercise and attention but lacks the necessity to please their owners. However, with a lot of patience, you can train a Bluetick Coonhound to do almost anything.
Belgian Malinois are very similar to the German Shepherd. They have a strong sense of smell, a lighter frame, and are very agile. Belgian Malinois are one of the best herding dogs possible. They can be trained for sledding, tracking, and agility sports.
They are quite protective of their families, and if not given a job to do, they will start to show signs of aggression and defiance.
The Labrador Retriever has one of the world’s most potent noses. These dogs can detect cancer from the breath of people if they are correctly trained. They can also detect bladder cancer from the urine of patients.
Labrador Retrievers are among the most popular breeds for hunters, thanks to their intelligence and tracking abilities. They can be trained in a matter of weeks and have a strong necessity to please their owners. If you show a Labrador Retriever love and affection, they will be loyal dogs forever.
If you love fishing or hunting and have a family with kids, this could be the right breed.
Probably one of the most popular breeds in western countries, German Shepherds are also one of the dogs with the best tracking skills. They are highly obedient, loyal, and athletic, which is why you see so many of them as police dogs.
Their noses have an average of 225 million scent receptors, and they use them for many important jobs. German Shepherds can detect drugs and explosives and find live victims during search and rescue operations.
German Shepherds are also excellent for herding and protection, and by nature, they are not an aggressive breed.
Small but mighty, Beagles have one of the best noses in the dog world. They are usually used to detect undesired items at airports. However, they are still considered a great family dog and a perfect companion for children.
They are among the top five most popular breeds in the US thanks to their happy personalities, intelligence, and the fact they do not drool much. Give them plenty of exercise, training, and you will get the perfect family dog.
This is the second-best breed for tracking and hunting. The Basset Hound uses every part of his body to help him track his prey. His floppy ears catch the scent he is looking for, and his powerful nose will follow the scent for miles.
Basset Hounds are devoted to their families, they have friendly personalities, and they can be trained relatively quickly.
Bloodhounds are the best tracking dogs, with over 300 million scent receptors on their noses. Like Basset Hounds, this breed uses every part of their body to track the scent they are looking for. From their ears and skin to their powerful noses, they will use it all to find their prey.
Bloodhounds are one of the oldest breeds in existence, and they are hard-working dogs that are happy with helping their owners. However, they need a lot of discipline and training if you want a well-behaved and obedient dog.
Incredible Facts About a Dog’s Nose
A human nose has around 6 million scent receptors. In comparison, most dog breeds have over 100 million scent receptors, with some reaching up to over 300 million scent receptors in their noses. Forty percent of a dog’s brain is meant for processing the information from their noses.
Their noses also separate air into two types: air for breathing and air for sniffing. Using this ability, dogs can smell more in one breath than we can through many.
Why The Wet Noses?
Dogs' noses work best when they are a bit moist. When the nose is wet, they can capture scent particles more efficiently, which helps them sniff better. That’s the reason dogs lick their noses; dry noses are no fun, and by instinct, they will dampen it every once in a while.
A dry nose does not mean that your dog is sick, but if you notice a dry nose and other symptoms like lack of energy or appetite is time to consult your vet. Dogs need their noses as much as humans need their hands, eyes, and mouths. So, keep your dog’s nose healthy and hydrated.
Fingerprints are unique to every human, and that’s the same for nose prints and dogs. You won’t find two dogs with the same nose print.
Dog noses are a fascinating subject. Their noses are designed with such precision that they can smell farther than most creatures on earth, except bears and some cats.
A dog will use its sense of smell to communicate with others, find food and prey, and essential jobs.
All dogs can use their noses to find and track, but some breeds were created for it. Basset Hounds and Bloodhounds are some of the finest trackers globally, making for the best hunting companions.
Dan is a well respected content researcher who has vast experience working projects in the pets niche. He is a frequent contributor to dogtemperament.com and loves delivering numerous helpful dog articles like this one that are read by thousands of our readers monthly.