By Karen A. Soukiasian
Dogs noses come in all sizes, shapes and colors, but they all do the same thing besides the obvious; they keep your dog informed. The bigger, longer, and wetter the nose, the more information is sucked up….sort of like a vacuum cleaner.
Many embarrassed, exasperated, inexperienced dog owners wonder “Why does my dog have to sniff everything?” The answer is, there are at least 220 million reasons.
However, the simplest answer dog trainers and behaviorist give, “Because the nose knows!”
Most dogs have between 200-250 million scent receptors. You have approximately a measly 5 million. Their combined olfactory “system” is 4 times greater than ours. The 7 square meters of nasal membrane in your dog’s nose is open for business 24/7 and it’s screaming for information.
A dog’s sense of smell, is stronger than their sense of sight. Blind dogs do just fine, sniffing their way through life.
We have social networks, computers, and 24-hour news to fulfill our addiction for information and socialization. So does your dog.
The difference is their computer and social network is in their brain. A walk around the neighborhood or dog park is overflowing with old and updated information. Sniffing along the way, is also providing the GPS system in your dog’s brain with maps.
That could be one reason why the dogs that are walked more often, tend to get “lost” in fewer numbers, than those that aren’t. Their nose and the GPS in their heads, aid them to find their way home.
Are you aware, the information your canine companion receives from sniffing a single drop of urine, will provide them with volumes of information? Through that nose, they will know: who was there, when they were there, what they eat, if they are male or female, neutered or spayed, how old they are, if they are dominant or submissive and even if they are in a good mood…or not!
Scent hounds have been our hunting companions for thousands of years. Their larger nose and floppy ears, made them invaluable to human hunters. Even back in the Middle Ages, it was known that Bloodhounds have an innate sense of smell, and they were successfully used as trackers, much to the chagrin of runaway criminals and poachers.
For centuries it has been believed and some still do, that dogs with big, long noses and black nostrils that are spread, make for the best trackers. It does make sense; as their olfactory chamber would be larger and it could store and send more information faster to the olfactory part of their brain, let’s say than that of a Bulldog or Pug!
Have you ever noticed your puppy or dog taking short, rapid inhalations and exhalations while sniffing something? What they are doing is maximizing the detection of that odor.
By licking and wetting their nose it increases their ability to collect samples of the odor, and store that information in their private library. It is even thought your pet can store 3-D images in their brain of various odors. That’s anther reason why they excel in tracking, hunting, drug searches, termite, bed bug and other insect infestations, search and rescue, as cadaver dogs and now, some are being tested and used to detect cancer.
Their ability to discriminate between odors also makes covering up an odor practically impossible! Plus, an object needs only to be held for as little as 2 seconds, and a dog will know who has touched it.
That was recently evident in an envelope package I mailed to a friend. She informed me within minutes of her bringing the package into the house, her hound mix, that I had trained, zeroed in on my scent on the envelope and its contents. This is the same dog that recognizes my voice when the phone is put on speaker.
Dog nose tidbits
- Healthy dogs don’t always have cold, wet noses. Some dogs with dry, warm noses are as healthy. You need to learn the difference for your pet.
- Watch a runny nose with care. It could be a sign of an obstruction or respiratory infection.
- Unless it is an emergency, never try to remove a nose obstruction. The membrane in your dog’s nose is sensitive, so have your veterinarian remove it.
- Your dog uses her nose to cool down.
- Certain breeds, such as scent hounds, have a pronounced sense of smell. (Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who owns a beagle!)
- Seasonal changes or even eating from a plastic food bowl can change the color of your dog’s nose.
- Your dog’s nose can get sunburned.
- A dog’s nose print is as unique as a fingerprint.
Some people believe dogs with longer noses live longer than those with short ones.
Bottom line: So, now that you know more about your dog’s nose, maybe you won’t be so uptight or embarrassed when they nose around. Always control an inappropriate behavior before it becomes obsessive, but appreciate that it’s absolutely natural and your dog’s nose knows it.
Follow Karen A. Soukiasian on Facebook