A dog’s sense of smell is absolutely a super power. Dogs can smell between 10,000 to 100,000 times better than humans. To put it into perspective, a dog can smell the one bad apple in a warehouse of two million apples. What’s more, she can take you directly to it!

Dogs’ noses evolved to help them survive. Nowadays, dogs are trained to detect drugs, explosives, cancer cells, illegally imported plants and seeds, toxic waste, low blood sugar, and of course, their favorite toys and treats. 

But just how do they do it? One of the reasons: dog nose slits. If you’ve never noticed these tiny slits on the sides of a dog’s nose, keep reading for more on these powerful little body parts. 

Dog Nose Slits Explained

When we breathe, we inhale a mix of odor molecules along with air. When we exhale, those scents go out along with expelled air. 

When dogs inhale, the air and scents get directed into two separate pathways. One pathway circulates about 12% of the air to the back of the nose, where it stays for scent analysis. The rest goes to the lungs for respiration. The exhaled air exits through the nose slits, allowing the air to be expelled while the scents remain in the back of the nose. A single scent can remain in the dog’s nose for several respirations. 

Dog nose slits also serve to create a swirling effect of air when a dog is breathing. This swirling brings new scents into the nose rapidly, and is one reason why when a dog is following a scent trail, he’s unlikely to lose it. 

Follow Your Nose

Some breeds have better sniffers than others, but every dog has a great sense of smell and most love to work and play. Here are a few simple nose work games you could try with your best dog friend. 

Find it – Ask your dog to sit/ stay, show her her favorite treat, and then hide the treat in the same room while she can see you. Watch her find it. Since dogs are great at using their eyes before their noses, gradually make the game more scent oriented by hiding the treat where she can’t see it, or eventually even in another room of the house. Make it fun for her and give lots of praise. 

Which hand? – Show your dog a treat, and then put both hands behind your back, placing the treat in one of them. Bring both closed hands in front of you, and ask your dog “which hand?”. Watch her sniff out the hand that holds the treat. When she does, give her the treat. If she misses it at first, don’t give the treat. Put your hands behind your back and start over. This teaches her to use her nose instead of guessing!  Stay positive always, and give lots of praise and love.

The Amazing Canine Nose

Once a dog has been trained to isolate a specific scent, he’s not likely to forget it. Because dog noses are so sensitive, it’s imperative to keep them healthy. There are up to 19 different diseases that can affect a dog’s nose, including diabetes, cancer, and hypothyroidism. 

Regular preventive care exams are the best way to detect small problems before they become major health conditions. If you see nasal discharge or are worried about your dog’s health, please callAnimal Kind Veterinary Hospital or schedule an appointment right away. We are here to help!