Understanding Your Dog’s Nose


Dog’s Nose

A dog’s nose is a wonder to behold. It sniffs out things like moles and voles that are buried underground as though they were sitting right in front of them.

Your dog doesn’t have to see what she’s smelling and we, as humans, certainly don’t have any idea what is so captivating.

So what’s the big deal?

Your dog’s nose can ferret out smells because her nose is thousands of times more sensitive than yours. And it can distinguish nuances that set humans and other dogs apart from each other.

That’s exactly why your dog sniffs another dog’s butt. Not only is it a greeting, it’s an identifier.

What Her Nose Does

Unlike humans, a dog doesn’t merely breathe in and breathe out. It’s much more complicated and, at the same time, more subtle than that.

James Walker, who used to work at the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State, suggests this: “Let’s suppose they’re [a dog’s nose] 10,000 times better. 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.”

A dog’s intake of air gets separated into two distinct pathways. One flows into her olfactory area and the other flows into her lungs through the pharynx.

When we breathe, we inhale and exhale through the same airways. A dog doesn’t do that.

Dogs possess small tissue folds inside their noses to divide those two functions. That means scents are trapped inside your dog’s nose in a far greater way.

A dog’s heightened sense of smell is why they are such champions when it comes to sniffing out drugs, finding cancer when none was suspected or even being able to give advance warning for something like an epileptic seizure or a drop in blood sugar.

How Air Exits

Let’s compare how we exhale as opposed to how your dog exhales. As we said in the paragraphs above, when we inhale and exhale the air goes out the same way it comes in. For a dog, though, exhaled air goes out through slits in their nose which allows the nasal passages to bring in new smells.

What that does is allow a dog to continue to sniff things continuously without having to stop to take air in first and then exhale.

Understanding Your Dog’s Nose

An Extra System

Dogs also have something we’ve never had: An extra olfactory system. This extra system is used like a pheromone factory that tells your dog if another dog is ready to mate. Each olfactory system works independently of the other and analyzes air separately.

This second olfactory system is known as Jacobson’s organ and it’s found in the bottom of your dog’s nasal passages.

Urination and Gossip

The next time you take your dog for a walk and she stops to sniff what appears to be an ordinary telephone pole, what she’s really doing is reading the mail left by other dogs with their urine. For her, this is the neighborhood gossip pole and she will be anxious to write on it herself.


Photo Credit:  istockphoto.com

WagBrag’s co-founder, Russ Boles, has a deep history in animal rescue and welfare. For the past 12 years, Russ has served in various roles with Atlanta-based animal advocacy organizations focused on rescue, training and education. In addition, Russ led a local rescue volunteer team into New Orleans immediately after Hurricane Katrina, assisting in efforts to rescue and care for stranded animals. This experience changed his life, and animal rescue and advocacy will always be a part of everything he does.