All about dog noses!




Hello Calgary Humane Supporters! October is dog month at the shelter, and we hope you’re enjoying all of our fun doggy facts. Today on the blog we have decided to talk about… your pooch’s nose!

Yep, that’s right, it’s all about the schnoz today. We’re bringing you the cute, the cool and the curious about the canine olfactory system.

The Cute!

OK, this is by far the cutest thing you might read today. Every dog has a unique nose print, just like our fingerprints are unique identifiers. In fact, since 1938, the Canadian kennel club has accepted nose prints as one form of unique identification for a dog.

If you would like to check out your own dog’s nose print, don’t bust out the stamp pad! Remember: dogs lick their noses, so anything you use will need to be 100% safe for your pooch to eat. One suggestion we found online was to put some food colouring onto a paper towel, gently use the towel to apply food colouring to Fido’s nose and then to gently press a pad of paper against the dog’s nose to take the nose print. Looking for a fun science experiment for the kids this weekend? Take nose prints from a few dogs and look for differences in them!

Looking for something else to check out about your dog’s nose this weekend? Watch when Fido’s nose starts moving and sniffing while you are cooking, because dogs can wiggle their nostrils independently!

The Cool!

If you’ve ever seen a detector dog at work, you’ll know it’s pretty cool! Detector dogs – the dogs that sniff out contraband items – use their noses daily to keep borders safe and secure. Detector dogs often sniff out things like drugs or weapons, but they have also been trained to detect other things that should not cross the border – like illegal fruits and vegetables or hidden stashes of cash.

So how the heck do they do it?! Well a dog’s sense of smell is WAY more sensitive than a human’s. Depending on your source, a dog’s sense of smell is considered 10,000-100,000 times better! Dogs can detect smells at parts per TRILLION within the air. What is a part per trillion? Well if you were to take two Olympic size swimming pools worth of water (a million gallons of water) and add a single teaspoon of sugar you would have a concentration of sugar in the parts per trillion. Imagine that in the air and that is the kind of concentration a dog can smell.

How can dogs do this? Well, for one, humans have a measly 5 million or so scent receptors, whereas dogs can have 220-300 million or more. Dog’s noses are built differently compared to ours, with far more sensitive structures designed solely to help them pick up scents. Scientists who have examined the olfactory system in dogs have actually found that about 12% of the air a dog inhales goes into a special chamber of the nose just for smelling, while the rest goes to the lungs for oxygen. This special chamber in the dog nose is filled with “turbinates” (a maze of ridges made of bone) and special cells in the skin covering these turbinates send signals to a dog’s brain to help them recognize the odors.

The Curious!

Ahhh, that awkward moment when dogs do the obligatory “bum sniffing” session. Good for a laugh, but ever wonder why?

Umm… yeah… so I do lots of research for these articles but there is absolutely no way that I am going to ask my librarian for the books on dog-bum science. Lucky for everyone (including my poor librarian), the American Chemical Society created a great video about this very topic… check it out!


Well, there you have it, the cute, the cool and the curious world of dog noses. We hope this brightened your day! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and twitter!