It’s no grand secret that canine snouts are many times more discernible than our human noses. There’s proof in the double-bagged trash that remains irresistible, and in the way their ears perk up when you dig into their food bin.
“In general, the dog’s nose is 100,000 to 1 million times more sensitive than the human’s, while the bloodhound has a nose that is 10 to 100 million times more sensitive than ours. The section of a dog’s brain related to processing smells is almost seven times larger than ours,” says Dr. Frank Rosell on Psychology Today. Dr. Rosell is a dog nose expert and author of the book Secrets of the Snout: The Dog’s Incredible Nose.
He adds, “In addition, the dog’s fantastic sense of smell can be explained by the fact that dogs don’t exhale when sniffing a faint scent. This enables the dog to sniff faint odors without disturbing or destroying them.”
Throughout history, their powerful snouts and intelligence have served humankind quite well and, in some cases, have even saved lives. Below are just a handful of ways in which they’ve come to our rescue.
Humans have enjoyed the benefits of dog snouts for centuries — particularly when it comes to hunting for food. Thanks to their predatory skills and powerful snouts, dogs are exceptionally good at finding prey, ranging from small mammals to fowls to aquatic life. (As an aside, some are specially trained to hunt for plant life, such as truffle mushrooms).
This is a natural skill, but one they can become even better at through training. Some dogs are particularly adept when it comes to hunting, such as bloodhounds, dachshunds, and terriers.
While hunting may not seem like that important of a skill in our modern world, keep in mind that hundreds of years ago humans didn’t have all the hunting tools we do today. Also, centuries ago hunting for food was done out of necessity versus plain sport.
It’s hard to comprehend just how powerful a dog’s nose is, but the fact that they can smell substances at a molecular and parasitic level may help put it into perspective. In his book, Dr. Rosell outlines how dogs are used in a medicinal setting by “detecting diabetes and the early stages of some cancer types.”
They’ve also been used to detect malaria, as reported by Wired. “In double-blind lab tests, two canines proved able to correctly pick out the scent of children infected with malaria parasites 70 percent of the time,” writes reporter Megan Molteni. “While all the schoolchildren appeared healthy, blood tests administered on-site discovered that 30 children were actually carrying the disease.”
Drug, Bomb, and Contraband Sniffing
It’s easy to aww at K-9 units — and to be honest, all those well-trained very-good-doggos are pretty adorable — but their job is a serious and noble one. Detection dogs undergo weeks, even years, of serious training that equips them with the ability to sniff out illegal drugs, explosives, fire accelerants, contraband, and more. The assistance of K-9 units helps streamline time-sensitive police work. In some cases, they’re even working in life-or-death situations.
Locating Missing Persons
In that same vein, detection dogs are trained to locate missing (or sometimes dangerous) persons, which is an especially time-sensitive mission. There are countless anecdotal stories of dogs saving lives in this way. For example, the Canine Training Center writes, “In Leasburg, Missouri, a hunter was missing for 24 hours before dogs were brought to the area. After a 12-mile search, the man was found alive, though he had suffered an aneurism and could not walk.”
Dogs and their snouts can also offer their sniffing assistance in the face of a natural disaster. There are countless stories of dogs locating humans who are buried under piles of rubble following tornadoes and earthquakes.
We often think about our pups as silly companions, but when we consider just how valuable they are to us from a utilitarian (and an emotional) point of view, it’s clear that we’ve been gifted something quite special in our fur friends. Moving forward, let’s be particularly grateful to them, allow them to sniff to their heart’s delight, and perhaps forgive them the next time they get into something they shouldn’t have…
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