Question: why are dogs so good at smelling

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  1. That is an interesting question, Evolution tells us we develop in ways that help our survival. Humans rely mostly on sight (our sense of smell and hearing is quite bad compared with many animals, but even our sight is quite bad compared with that of an eagle).
    Mia is probably the best one to answer in detail, but dogs originally hunted in packs and used their sense of smell to identify pack-mates and follow the trail of animals they are hunting. Dogs with a better sense of smell get to eat better and can care for there pups better, and so have an advantage.


  2. @kido, this is a great question and a tough one that scientist dont understand very well at the moment. I wont say too much because I know @Mia will have something to add, but I can tell you Australian scientists are about to spend a HUGE amount of money trying to figure out your exact question. They’re really interested because they want to know if they can make machines that are as good as the dogs nose.


  3. @kido: Hi! Dogs are AH-MAAAAAAAY-ZING at smelling… in a way that blows my mind. We tend to think that dogs see the world the way we do, but where the most important sense to us is our vision, dogs’ most important is their sense of smell…

    Scientists are still arguing about how much better than humans dogs can smell, but they agree it’s somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 times better than us. To apply that to vision, it would be like being about to see something you can watch now that’s 100m away, when it’s 1000km away! If you think you can smell a teaspoon of sugar dissolved in a cup of tea or coffee, a dog can smell a teaspoon dissolved into two olympic sized swimming pools’ worth of water – it’s completely nuts how good they are at smelling. Their world is a really sniffy one.

    Why are they so good at it? Partly because of the design of their noses and an extra special organ they have above the roof of their mouths (the vomeronasal organ). They are processing smells as they breathe in (and they have 50 times the number of smell receptors in their noses that we do) as well as when they breathe out (the outgoing air helps push in new air to sniff too!). The part of their brain that is used for smelling is proportionally 40 times bigger than ours. Smelling has been really important for dogs (as Peter said) and their bodies have evolved accordingly.

    People have been using these awesome sniffing powers by training dogs to work for us finding things (people, drugs, money, explosives, weapons, etc. etc.) – we’re so lucky the dogs have been such awesome partners in this work!