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D2004-07

Dear Daisy Dog

Why do dogs have a keener sense of smell than humans?

Daisy Responds

Two factors give us dogs this advantage – though sometimes I think it is a disadvantage!

Odors are detected by olfactory receptors, specialized nerve cells lining the nose. Our canine olfactory receptors are much like yours, but we have many more of them.
Most dog muzzles are much longer than human noses. In addition, the inside surfaces of our noses have more folds and pleats than yours.

The result is that the inside of my nose has a larger surface area that can accommodate more olfactory receptors than yours.

For example, a German shepherd has about 220 million olfactory receptors, a fox terrier 147 million, and a dachshund 125 million. You poor humans have only 50 million.

Another factor in a dog’s keen sense of smell is the large size of our brain’s olfactory lobe. While you humans have larger brains than we dogs do, the average dog’s olfactory lobe is four times larger than yours.

So it shouldn’t surprise you that some dogs’ sense of smell is so acute that they can distinguish identical twins by their odors.

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