Sniff, Therefore I Am

NOTE: Over the next three Monthly Wags, we will focus on one of our favorite Fun Factors: Nose Works, explaining how you can have some fun at home with your dog or maybe even join a local Nose Work Chapter. ~ Mary Beth

The first dog book I ever read was “How Dogs Think (What the World Looks Like to Them and Why They Act the Way They Do)” by Stanley Coren. The most fascinating chapter for me was “I Sniff, Therefore I am.”

Dogs noses dominate not only their face, it also dominates their brain and thus the picture of their world. Dogs interpret a world made up predominantly of smells of different types and intensities rather than visual images.

According to Coren, “Our human olfactory bulb weighs approximately one-half of an ounce. Your average size dog’s weighs 2 ounces. What does that mean? It means your dog smells 10,000 times or 40 X’s greater the strength of what you smell.”

Here’s the example Stanley Coren gives in his book that has stuck with me longer than my college education: If we test human sensitivity to butyric acid — a component of sweat — (okay, ready for this human sensitive nose smellers?), if we took 1 gram of sweat and let it evaporate into the air in a 10-story building, when you opened the door some of you could just barely smell it.

If we evaporated that same gram of butyric acid in a 135 square mile radius and up to 300 feet into the air, a dog could still smell it. Oh, that radius, by the way, is the entire size of the city of Philadelphia and that city contains nearly 1.6 million people, all of whom sweat. What do you suppose that smells like to a dog on a hot summer day?

The NOSE: The hairless part is called the Leather. It is an organ, and it has a pattern of ridges and dimples. The pattern, in combination with the outline of the nostril opening, makes up the “noseprint.” A dog’s noseprint is as unique as a human’s fingerprint.

FUN FACTOR ACTIVITY to do at home If you want to take a noseprint of your dog just for fun ( or for an art project) dry your dog’s nose off first. Pour some food coloring on a paper towel and dab it on your dog’s nose. Keep your dog from licking it off for a couple seconds, then use a small pad of paper to press gently against the nose, letting the pad’s sides curve around to pick up impressions from the sides of the nose. (DO NOT USE INK OR PAINT) Food coloring is non toxic.

Why Do Dogs Have Cold Wet Noses?

The moisture on the leather of a dog’s nose is produced by

many mucous glands. The mucous glands not only keep the

leather cool but the main purpose: to collect odor molecules. The

moisture on and in a dog’s nose acts like Velcro — collecting all

the odor molecules.

A dog’s nose is tuned to a set of smells that have a special

biological significance to animals, specifically pheromones.

These chemicals transmit information to other animals — information

such as age, sex, health, even emotional state. Reading

pheromone scents is, for dogs, the equivalent of reading the

written word; the status and the feelings of another animal.

When a dog’s fur rubs against objects, some of the pheromones

are transmitted to the object leaving a lasting record of the

animal’s passage. Now you know why your dog rolls on the

ground in…

Many pheromone chemicals are dissolved in a dog’s urine

which therefore carry a great deal of information about that dog.

Sniffing a tree or fire hydrant along a route popular with dogs

becomes a means of keeping abreast of current events. The trees,

shrubs, etc. serve as a large canine tabloid containing the latest

news in the dog world. It may not contain classic canine

literature, but it certainly has plenty of gossip and classified ads.


On your next outing with your dog, notice where he/she

spends most of their time. Is it at a tree, or a shrub, a fire hydrant,

or fencepost? Can you hear them reading their news aloud?

“Hello Bella. I’m Ralph, I’m a hound mix and a young 30 year old

in perfect health. Been in the neighborhood for quite a while

now and I noticed you’re new so I wanted to introduce myself and

hope we get a chance to meet in person. See Ya tomorrow.” How

long does your dog spend in that area? Does your dog send a

message back?

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