11 Things Dogs Can Smell But You Can’t

A dog’s sense of smell is so powerful that he can sniff out a drop of blood in an Olympic-sized pool. With olfactory cortexes that are 40 times larger than humans, a dog is well placed to smell things 100,000 times better than you. Among dogs, the volume of olfactory receptors varies from one breed to another. Dachshunds have about 125 million while Bloodhounds have around 300 million. A German Shepherd has 225 million of these receptors. With that much olfactory power, it is no wonder there are many things dogs can smell but you cannot. 

Things Dogs Can Smell - Dog nose

#1 Dogs Can Smell Cancer

One of the first stories of dogs detecting cancer dates back to 1989. The Lancet published the story of a Border Collie mix who was able to detect a malignant melanoma on her owner. According to the paper, the dog was so fixated on the mole that she refused to stop sniffing, licking, and biting it in what appeared like an attempt to remove the mole. The dog’s owner decided to have the mole checked and that’s when she discovered that the mole was cancerous. 

Many dogs were able to detect cancer in their owners even without proper training. Nowadays, training programs have been developed to enhance dog’s cancer-detecting skills further. Many dogs are now able to detect prostate cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer, and other types of cancer with 88 to 99% accuracy. 

#2 Dogs Can Smell Narcotics

Trained dogs can smell and detect narcotics that you even cannot imagine to smell. These sniffer dogs work in airports, train and bus stations, prisons, and are a part of police teams. They are trained to sniff out cannabis, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and other contraband traded illegally.  

German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Labrador Retrievers, and Dutch Shepherds are commonly used as sniffer dogs, as they are capable of detecting drugs even in small amounts. In a 2014 study of Polish police dogs, researchers found German Shepherds to be the best for the sniffing jobs. 

#3 Dogs Can Smell Diabetes 

Diabetic alert dogs have been saving the lives of people suffering from Diabetes Type I. Using their powerful noses, dogs can smell the sudden drop in blood sugar levels of diabetic patients. The exact chemical dogs detect leading to diabetic alert remains unknown. But recent studies led experts to believe that dogs are able to detect chemical isoprene in diabetic people’s breaths. Isoprene has been found to rise significantly during hypoglycemia and dogs were found to be very sensitive to its smell. 

#4 Dogs Can Smell Seizures Minutes Before They Occur

Some dogs can smell seizures before they happen. Seizure-alert dogs can warn their epileptic owners about the possibility of a seizure as early as 15 minutes before it happens. Some dogs whine, paw, and bark at their owners to let them know about it. This allows the affected persons to take seizure blocking medications, move to a safe place and position, or call the assistance of other people before the episodes occur. However, it is not yet clear yet whether dogs can smell any chemical changes in the body or they sense behavioral changes before such an episode.  

#5 Dogs Can Smell Bombs to Save Lives 

Bomb-detecting police dogs have been at the forefront of saving human lives for decades. Dogs who are trained for this type of tasks can even discern when bombs or explosive devices are masked by another odor. Our awesome buddies are capable of doing this because they can smell in layers, and this skill allows them to detect each ingredient using only their sense of smell. 

Dogs are arguably the best bomb detectors. They are even more reliable in detecting explosive devices. Bomb-detection dogs can also accurately do searches four times faster than humans. With the help of these dogs, governments are able to protect public spaces from potential terror attacks. 

The most common dog breeds that are utilized for this line of work, include German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Belgian Malinois. 

#6 Dogs Can Smell Cybercrime 

Yes, dogs can smell cybercrime – well, sort of.  Many dogs are trained as “tactical detection canines” and some of these dogs can sniff and locate illegal DVDs, flash drives, SD cards, micro SD cards, and other electronic devices that may be used as pieces of evidence for cybercrimes, such as identity theft, child pornography, piracy, and hacking. 

#7 Dogs Can Track Down Missing People 

Dogs can also be trained to track missing people. In fact, Bloodhounds were used for this purpose since the medieval times. Nowadays, German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Beagle, Coonhounds, and other hound breeds are also employed for this purpose.  

#8 Dogs Can Smell Whale Scat

A dog named Tucker has been tracking killer whales off Washington’s coast. Because killer whales are endangered, tracking them is essential to monitor their health and population. The Labrador Retriever mix can detect the presence of the whales from a mile away in the open sea.  

#9 Dogs Can Smell Lightning

Dogs can smell lightning and chemical changes in the air so they can predict when a rain is about to come. With their powerful noses, dogs can smell the ozone in the air from the electricity in lightning – even in ones you don’t see. They can also sense the oncoming rain via other scents that hang in the humid air.  

#10 Dogs Can Smell Time

While dogs live in the moment, they can definitely sense the passage of time. Dogs can smell changes in a room as the day goes by, especially in warmer months. According to Professor Alexandra Horowitz of Dog Cognition Lab, hot air climbs up in currents along the walls. As the day goes by, the hot air goes to the center of the room, slowly dropping down as the day gets cooler late in the afternoon and night. Dogs can smell the air movement and this gives them a clue about the time. 

#11 Dogs Can Smell Hidden Cash

Currency detection dogs can detect large amounts of hidden dollars, euros, and other currencies. These dogs help prevent fraud, money laundering, and other financial crimes. In fact, one Springer Spaniel named Ruby had detected 10.5 million British pounds during her work at the Heathrow Airport. Another Canadian dog, Jagger the black Labrador, made discoveries of $2.4 million currencies imported illegally.

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