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Home > Dogs > Can Dogs Sniff and Breathe at the Same Time? The Surprising Answer!

Can Dogs Sniff and Breathe at the Same Time? The Surprising Answer!

dog sniffing owner's hands

A dog’s sense of smell is indeed its strongest scent, but dogs do much more than sniff things. Dogs are practically superheroes when it comes to their noses. They can sniff out drugs, cancer, and find missing people—all while breathing and sniffing simultaneously.

But does this mean that dogs have a superior sniffer? Let’s find out.


A Dog’s Sense of Smell

Dogs have unique olfactory senses thanks to their one-of-a-kind noses. They have over 100 million sensory receptors in the nose compared to humans, who only have 6 million.1 Plus, the part of the brain that processes this information is 40 times larger than the human brain.

So, it’s no surprise that dogs can smell from 1,000 to 100,000 times better than humans. Even so, dogs have one more trick up their snout.

Dogs have something called the Jacobsen’s organ, or the vomeronasal organ. This organ is located inside the nasal cavity, resting behind the incisors, and acts as a secondary olfactory sensor.

The Jacobsen’s organ provides information normally deemed undetectable with the help of nerves that lead directly to the brain. It’s why dogs can sniff out lung cancer, detect hidden drugs, find missing persons, and even help officers locate gasoline for arson crimes. Dogs can even sniff out human remains during archaeological digs. So, when your dog exhales while sniffing, you know that the Jacobsen’s organ is being used.

Dog nose
Image By: LUM3N, Pixabay

How Sniffing Improves Canine Well-Being

For dogs, sniffing is another form of talking. Without the ability to sniff, a dog wouldn’t know what to do with its time or how to communicate with other dogs. A dog couldn’t know when a bitch is in heat, when a prey animal is nearby, or when a predator is nearing the flock. Without sniffing, a dog becomes anxious, depressed, and frustrated.

Allowing your dog to sniff every nook and cranny on a walk might seem annoying, but it is excellent mental stimulation for your pup. Sniffing fills a dog with wonder and optimism. It brightens your dog’s world, allowing it to discover new joys and recover old ones.

Do Dogs Have the Best Noses?

Each dog breed has a different olfactory ability. The bloodhound is considered the breed with the best sense of smell. But even so, dogs lose first place to other animals.

Cats have over 200 million sensory receptors in their noses compared to dogs, with only 100 million.

Bears also have keen senses of smell. Their big noses can sniff 2,000 times greater than humans and are seven times greater than bloodhounds, allowing them to smell food sources from several miles away. Still, the bear will have to give first place to the elephant.

Elephants have more scent receptors than other mammals. A study in 2007 showed that elephants could detect members from the Maasai tribe and members from the Kamba tribe. The Maasai tribe traditionally speared elephants, so the amazing creatures used their sense of smell to avoid this tribe.

Other animals like polar bears, rats, mice, and insects have olfactory senses that greatly surpass the dog.

golden labrador dog sniffing person hands in snowy winter park
Image By: Bogdan Sonjachnyj, Shutterstock



So, what makes a dog so special? Can you imagine training a bear to find a missing person? Or perhaps using an elephant to find drugs? We’re sure they could, but a dog’s size and trainability make them useful in our society, and we are eternally grateful.


Featured Image Credit: Prostock-studio, Shutterstock

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