To the Dog, the Whole World is a Smell
Scent. You cannot see it nor smell it. It cannot be photographed or died or lifted like a fingerprint. You cannot find it with a laser or send it to a lab for analysis. Yet, it is there just waiting to be understood. Olfaction, the process of smelling, is a dog's primary unique sense.

Moisture on the surface of a canine's noise helps to dissolve molecules in the air. These molecules then come into contact with olfactory membranes inside the dog's nosenerve impulses sent to the olfactory center in the brain. Dogs also have a vomeronasal organ in the roof of their mouths which allows them to "taste" certain smells. This organ transmits information directly to the part of the brain known as the limbic system, which controls emotional responses.

Amazing Canine Noses Know (Learn more with this Auburn University IBDS Report)
With 1 drop of urine, can learn animalís sex, diet, health, emotional state, dominant or submissive, friend or foe.
Tracking canines follow biochemical trail of dead skin cells, sweat, odor molecules, and gasses.
Scent articles are like 3-D odor image considerably more detailed than a photo is for a person.
Olfactory detection limits range from 10's of parts per billion to 500 parts per trillion.  

Dogs are extraordinary among mammals when we consider their abilities in both reception and discrimination of odorants. And, while humans possess about five million scent receptors, our large breeds evidence over 200 million more than half of the canine nose committed to olfaction. Since 1984, Dr. Larry Myers, associate professor at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, has tested the olfactory capabilities of more than 4,000 dogs. Part of what makes a dog's sense of smell so sophisticated is its ability to smell multiple layers of chemicals, says Myers. Dogs don't detect a single chemical but a combination of them. "If (they were identifying) just a single chemical, medicine might have picked up on it. The dog may be doing something a little better," says Myers.

To illustrate the concept of odor layering, consider this scenario (one that we recently experienced first hand when we made a huge vat of chili and Golden Alfie obsessed on the pot for hours as it slow cooked. If you would go into a kitchen where someone is cooking chili, you would smell chili. But, that wasn't what Alfie was smelling. He was smelling the ground beef, beans, tomatoes, red & green peppers, chili peppers, onions, garlic, and more. Alfie could separate out each element of the chili into an individual layer or component of odorant.

Think about that when you endeavor to teach your dogs to balance a treat or food on their snouts or to learn the command "leave it" with respect to not going after a fallen piece of food on the floor. In those terms, it is truly a wonderful feat.

Dogs make great detectors of contraband materials, their scenting abilities superior to electronic detection devices. Able to selectively locate odors, dogs efficiently sample air and being mobile, can then take their handlers directly to an odor source. While moving, they are able to pick up the thread. of an odor. By casting back and forth with their bodies and heads, dogs are constantly taking tiny samples (or sniffs). They then compare the odor concentrations and calculate the direction of increasing concentrations, actually following the molecular concentration gradient to its strongest point, or source. When dogs compare the strength of scent received in each of their nostrils, fine-grained pinpointing of odor is achieved. And, because they can detect minute quantities of odorants and are much more capable of discriminating between individual molecular combinations that identify odorants, it is usually impossible to fool them by packaging strong-smelling items with contraband.

And, please consider Mollty Masland's reflections on our canines' sense of smell: "The next time your dog decides to dive belly first into a pile of rotting fish or writhe in ecstasy in another dog’s feces, keep in mind that this seemingly horrifying urge could one day help save your life." Goldens are now successfully being utilized to detect epileptic seizures, low blood sugar and heart attacks. Research about this phenomena is based on the theory that disease causes subtle chemical changes in the body or alterations in metabolism. And, these alterations then release a different smell, or chemical marker.

Surely, we all know the propensity for our dogs to be checking their p-mailsniffing trees and lampposts to see how many messages have been left for them. Well, a team of scientists and dog trainers put this behavior to good use in a novel experiment which had canines sniffing human urine to detect bladder cancer sufferers. It is believed that dogs are detecting very low concentrations of the alkanes and aromatic compounds generated by tumors. While all of our dogs have sniffing capabilities, becoming an accomplished human scent or substance detector dog involves much training and handler devotion. Yet, we couldn't resist the below tongue-in-cheek detection dog humor that lays all the blame on our furry companions.



To honor the fabulous book, Scent of the Missingthe story of Susannah and SAR Dog Puzzle's adventures together, and of the close relationship they forge as they search for the lostwe created the Paws 2 Connect Photo Contest. The contest celebrates the harmony of teamwork, successful teams surely beating with one heart. We are looking for those photos that demonstrate dog and person in active communication and collaboration on a task. There is an incredible $400 prize package and it is a cinch to enter. Get on over to for the details.


 Chomi Ohoyo's TOP 10 Reasons Why K9 Candidates Don't Make it as Detection Dogs

1. Arson Dogs -- Couldn't get the dog fired up. 6. Agricultural Detection Dogs -- Dog had no taste for the work.
2. Water Search Dogs -- Dog was in over his head. 7. Wildlife Detection Dogs -- Dog was just winging it.
3. Airport Detection Dogs -- Dog was too flighty. 8. Explosives Detection Dogs -- Dog kept blowing it.
4. Drug Detection Dogs -- Dog wouldn't inhale. 9. Termite Detection Dogs -- Dog bugged me too much.
5. Currency Detection Dogs -- The dog was a poor candidate. 10. Gypsy Moth Detection Dogs -- Dog's mind kept wandering.

Custer sniffing school lockers for contraband

With our current world situation requiring more thinking outside the box, this particular topic has gained international prominence. Please do take the time to learn about the incredible work that is being done to bring uniform standards and thereby acceptance of our dogs' work. Golden Custer surely wants to be taken seriously as he sniffs for contraband in our schools.