The Nose, Window to a Dog’s World
By: Judy Hamontre, AVHS Volunteer
We go for a walk and take in our beautiful mountain surroundings. Our dog focuses on the ground and it’s smells.
We get home and smell chili cooking in the slow cooker. Our dog smells meat, tomatoes, onions, peppers and spices, each separate ingredient.
How we humans take in the world through the sense of smell differs greatly from that of our furry friends.
The canine nose is far more powerful than ours. Depending on the breed, dogs have up 100 million or more scent receptors in their noses, and bloodhounds, terrific trackers, have 300 million. We humans have only 5-6 million scent receptors.
No wonder dogs can smell anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times better than people.
The canine nose works best when it is damp. The wet outer nose and mucus-covered nasal canal efficiently capture scent particles. Moisture is so important to the canine sense of smell, that dogs will lick their noses when they become dry. They do not want to miss any information in their world.
There is more than a dog’s nose that explains their powerful sense of smell.
Unlike humans, dogs have an additional olfactory tool that increases their ability to smell. The Jacobsen’s organ is a special part of the dog’s olfactory apparatus located inside the nasal cavity and opening into the roof of the mouth behind the upper incisors. It serves as a secondary olfactory system designed specifically for chemical communication.
The two separate parts of the dog’s odor detection system, the nose and Jacobsen’s organ, work together to provide delicate sensibilities that neither system could achieve alone.
With all these scent signals traveling from the nose, it is no surprise that dogs’ brains have a larger olfactory cortex than humans. The area of the canine brain devoted to analyzing odors is 40 times larger than the comparable part of the human brain. In fact, one-eighth of a dog’s brain is dedicated to interpreting odor which is bigger than the section of the human brain dedicated to interpreting sight.
Dogs also use sight to assess their surroundings, but their vision has some challenges. They can detect motion well, but they are mostly far-sighted with limited color vision. They have less binocular vision which limits their ability to perceive depth, and their muzzle sometimes interferes with seeing close objects. Their powerful sense of smell is a better way for them to “see” the world.
A dog needs to sniff. Preventing your dog from experiencing the world through scent would be similar to putting a blindfold on a human. The sense of smell provides your dog with important information and mental stimulation.
On your next walk, take time to stop and look at our beautiful mountains while your dogs sniffs, taking in his world.
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