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The right smell: sense of smell in dogs


The dog is considered a so-called nose animal, which means that it perceives its environment essentially through the sense of smell. Dogs can smell whole stories, moods and even diseases from smells. The dog's nose is a thoroughly fascinating sensory organ. Without his most important sensory organ, the nose, a dog would be in a fix - Shutterstock / aastock

For humans, the sense of smell only plays a subordinate role, they perceive impressions through the eyes and ears much more. The mind then interprets these sensory perceptions and puts them into a context. But the dog is a "macrosmat" - the term comes from Greek and can be translated as "big smell". A dog collects most of the impressions of its environment through its nose.

Dog and human smell: differences

Humans have about five million olfactory cells in their noses, while a dog has an average of 125 to 220 million olfactory cells. However, the number depends on the breed of dog. A German Shepherd is at the top, a pug at the bottom of the scale. This is due to the fact that the size and shape of the nose vary greatly among the different dog breeds. Nevertheless, the sense of smell in dogs is fundamentally much better and finer than the human sense of smell.

At around 150 square centimeters, the olfactory mucous membrane in dogs is much larger than that of humans, who have to be satisfied with five square centimeters of olfactory mucosa. This roughly corresponds to the difference in size between an A4 sheet and a stamp. The inside of the dog's nose is even more complex than the human nose, so that the four-legged friends can perceive smells much more differently than their master or their mistress. For example, if a person cooks a tomato soup, he only smells the dish in its entirety. A dog, on the other hand, can smell individual spices and the smallest ingredients. This is because dogs can breathe faster than humans and at the same time "store" smells in their noses to examine them closely. Dogs can also move their nostrils independently to determine which direction a smell comes from.

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Can dogs smell diseases and emotions?

Animals are often said to have a sixth sense that allows them to anticipate events and sense human sensations. It is only because of their fine sense of smell that dogs are able to recognize the mood of their owner or even "predict" illnesses and seizures. Apparently, people smell different if they have cancer, are at risk of an epileptic seizure, or are diabetic blood sugar levels too high or too low. In various studies, the hit rate of dogs is said to have been more than 90 percent when it came to smelling certain types of cancer.

Emotions release biochemical processes in the body, so that the smell changes. People do not notice this, but a dog notices it. So it's true that dogs can smell fear. However, they also smell when you are sad, depressed, happy, restless or calm.

Sniffer dogs at work

Police, rescue workers, hunters and gourmets take advantage of the differentiated, fine sense of smell of dogs. The dog's nose is very adaptable and so you can train a dog to react to certain smells. Some dogs sniff out explosives or drugs, others can smell whether there are still people under rubble after a disaster. Still other detection dogs are particularly good at picking up and tracking tracks. And then there are the truffle dogs that discover the rare mushrooms in the ground. The advantage over truffle pigs is that dogs do not damage or consume the precious gourmet ingredient.

What if the dog's sense of smell is lost?

If a person loses their sense of smell, it is certainly not a pleasant experience. Nevertheless, he can endure this state in the end. Quite different with the four-legged friend. If a dog loses its sense of smell, the drastic changes in character lead to the bad. Its habitual character is becoming increasingly difficult to recognize, the animal loses interest in its environment more and more and becomes apathetic.