You would be amazed to know that a dog’s sense of smell is 1,00,000 times better than a human’s. This means that dogs detect odours at a concentration nearly 100 million times lower than humans. Now you know why we call it their superpower.


Like we humans interpret things by sight, our canine companions do the same by their sense of smell. There is a major difference in breathing and sniffing. Breathing is for air, but sniffing is when your dog takes short breaths and sniffs all the scents. Humans have five million scent glands, while dogs have 125 to 300 million scent glands (depending on the breed).

How do they actually do it?

Well, the source of this magic is their wet snout. Maybe that’s why it is said – Never underestimate the warmth of a wet nose! The mucus on the dog’s nose helps them smell by catching all the scents. The moist nose surface catches every scent, even the tiniest of molecules. This is how dogs recognise different people and their fellow canine friends. The molecules are then dissolved in the inner layer of their nose where the job of smell receptors begins.

Through gauging the scent particles, they weave up the entire story. A few sniffs and your dog would be able to judge what you have eaten and even your mood.

It needs tremendous training

Kritika Manchanda

Kritika Manchanda

When trained properly dogs can sniff out chemicals, explosives, drugs and even trace humans. But it needs extensive training, experience and skill. When your pooch is panting heavily their sniffing power is reduced by about 40 percent. Sniffer dogs are thus trained in a particular way to stay calm and be more efficient.

  • When talking about canine instinct, we cannot miss mentioning the brave heart Zanjeer. He was a detection dog with Mumbai Police and over his career he helped in recovering 11 military bombs, 57 countrymade bombs, 175 petrol bombs and 600 detonators. He died in November 2000.
  • Anny was 11-month-old canine, fresh out of the training camp when she busted drugs worth Rs 3 cr at Mumbai airport.
  • In Chhattisgarh a group of seven stray dogs have been trained at Kanker Jungle Warfare School for the state police and they are now sniffer dogs.
  • Anu – the only female Doberman in the head unit of the dog squad in Model Town area of north Delhi. She helped in nabbing many criminals and curb narcotics smuggling. Anu retired at the age of 11 in 2013.
  • This year, Delhi Police have selected a pack of trained canines from the Indian Army Veterinary Cops (IAVC) to scent any trouble in the city. The four-legged recruits are assigned to deal with security challenges in the capital city, which is home to VIP population and where threats of terrorist attacks always loom large.
  • On 12th August this year a tea vendor owner in East Delhi informed the police about missing of his six-year-old son. Several police teams worked on it, but couldn’t crack the case. Finally it was one of the teams’ sniffer dog named Vinesh who led the police to a nearby under-construction building where the boy was found murdered by the security guard of the site.

From chasing down burglars to saving the entire family from a fire accident, our canine buddies are in true spirit the unsung heroes who deserve all the love and respect.
What all can dogs smell?

  • They can smell fear. So if a scared person or a scared dog is in the room or has recently left the room, there are high chances that your pooch would get anxious and agitated.
  • Can smell a-week-old human fingerprints.
  • Since their nose is very sensitive they can also smell electricity in a particular way.
  • Detect odours up to 40 feet underground.
  • They can smell cancer. By sniffing breath samples dogs can detect lung, breast and other cancers. The accuracy ranges between 87 percent and 97 percent.
  • They can sniff chemicals, explosives and drugs.

Researchers believe that smells and scents have varying effects on dogs. This forms the basis of aromatherapy that is used as an alternative treatment method for stress, anxiety, depression, etc. For example – lavender has a calming and soothing effect on brain,

How do dogs smell fear?

People who are feared have a distinct scent and it is amazing how effectively dogs can catch this. Usually when someone is scared they tend to sweat more, and dogs can easily smell this.

Apart from fear dogs can also smell various other moods – sorrow, anxiety and sadness. When you are anxious there is an adrenaline rush in your system which leads to increased blood flow and increased heart rate. The activity in your brain is reflected on your skin by means of scent, and your beloved pooch sniffs your anxiety.

Sniffing comes naturally to dogs. Digging out stories while walking in the neighbourhood is their favourite pastime, and sniffing helps a lot. So now when you take your pet for a walk, let them sniff around and explore stories. Also peeing at every nook and cranny is their way of leaving comments on the gathered stories. This is their social media, so let them enjoy.