The Dog Days of Summer: Sniffing & Smelling

Adapted from page 60 of The Dog:

Smelling is an active process and dogs can inhale air at a rapid rate, approximately 4–7 Hz (sniffs/second). This ensures that odorous molecules also reach the deeper parts of the nose cavity, and about 15 percent of them stay there for the next round of smelling. This increases the concentration of the chemical in the nose and also provides more time for analysis. Sniffing behavior also changes during a search. Dogs smell very effectively at the beginning when they need to locate the start of the trail. After finding the start, dogs may wander along in a more relaxed way and sniff less frequently.

German Shepard sniffing

The German shepherd is a breed that is highly suited to tracking work. Photo credit: Melica, Shutterstock.

Several experiments have established that, in the case of some chemicals, dogs have a much higher sensibility than humans. Depending on the molecule, this difference could be 3–10 times higher, or even 10,000 (in the case of n-amyl acetate). In most cases, dogs need to be trained to recognize specific odors (such as narcotics or components of explosives). After training, skilled dogs are able to detect these substances at minute concentrations.

Although differences between breeds are expected, they have not been documented well. There is some evidence that the spontaneous performance of scent dogs (such as the beagle) and wolves is higher than that of non-scent dogs (such as the Afghan hound) and shortnosed ones (such as the boxer).

The Dog: A Natural History
By Ádám Miklósi

As one of the oldest domesticated species, selectively bred over millennia to possess specific behaviors and physical characteristics, the dog enjoys a unique relationship with humans. More than any other animal, dogs are attuned to human behavior and emotions, and accordingly play a range of roles in society, from police and military work to sensory and emotional support. Selective breeding has led to the development of more than three hundred breeds that, despite vast differences, still belong to a single species, Canis familiaris.

The Dog is an accessible, richly illustrated, and comprehensive introduction to the fascinating natural history and scientific understanding of this beloved species. Ádám Miklósi, a leading authority on dogs, provides an appealing overview of dogs’ evolution and ecology; anatomy and biology; behavior and society; sensing, thinking, and personality; and connections to humans.

Illustrated with some 250 color photographs, The Dog begins with an introductory overview followed by an exploration of the dog’s prehistoric origins, including current research about where and when canine domestication first began. The book proceeds to examine dogs’ biology and behavior, paying particular attention to the physiological and psychological aspects of the ways dogs see, hear, and smell, and how they communicate with other dogs and with humans. The book also describes how dogs learn about their physical and social environments and the ways they form attachments to humans. The book ends with a section showcasing a select number of dog breeds to illustrate their amazing physical variety.

Beautifully designed and filled with surprising facts and insights, this book will delight anyone who loves dogs and wants to understand them better.

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