A dog’s sense of smell is a truly amazing thing.

Dogs smell by air scenting (I’m sure you’ve seen them with their noses in the air having a sniff) and sniffing the ground or whatever it is that they come across.

Did you know that their sense of smell is about 50 x more developed than ours?

This translates to approximately 300 million scent receptors in their noses, compared to our measly 6 million. These numbers are also breed dependent, so your average little fox terrier has about 145 million scent receptors whereas your bloodhound has approximately 300 million. But here’s the other fascinating thing about dogs, they have an additional scent trapping organ which sits under their noses and above the roof of their mouths called the Vemoronasal organ, or the Jacobson’s organ. This superior olfactory organ allows them to get extremely detailed information from what they are sniffing and they can literally taste the air. It’s primary function however, is to detect pheromones, this provides both sexes with information as to the availability of the opposite sex for breeding.

So dogs basically see the world through their noses and have a remarkable ability to discern and remember scents. Not only can Fluffy tell hat the neighbourhood cat passed by a day ago, he can also smell what it had for dinner.

Imagine coming home to the smell of a delicious pasta sauce, well, Fluffy can smell every single ingredient in that sauce, that’s how amazing a dog’s sense of smell is.

Dogs need to be able to sniff on walks and explore the world in a way that makes sense to them. This provides mental stimulation and allows their brains to process important information. We humans live in a visual world, so can you imagine if you were never allowed to read a book, or the newspaper, or go onto social media or watch the news? A dog’s world is based on smells, so now can you imagine how frustrated your dog would feel not being able to sniff outside of their own garden no matter how big it is? It’s one of the most important functions in their lives. Dogs are able to understand scent in a way that’s difficult for us humans to comprehend.

“The effort it takes to sort out and identify individual elements of an odour requires a lot of work. It’s a little like us trying to solve a tough logic problem- the required mental energy is tiring”  The Continental Kennel Club.

Not only does sniffing provide great mental stimulation, it’s a stress reliever, and makes for happier dogs. It will also stave off cognitive decline as ageing starts setting in. It’s a great way for dogs to also burn up that surplus energy that could be used to chew up your shoes  or develop into other unwanted behaviours.

Don’t underestimate the multiple benefits of  a good “sniffing walk”

Ondine Schultz

Co-founder of Power Paws

Canine behaviour & training coach (basic) (FODS)

Clicker Instructor (FODS)

Intern Puppy Instructor at the FODS Puppy School