National Fragrance Day

March 21, 2021 4 min read

On March 21st of every year, people from all over use this special day to celebrate the numerous ways scents can improve our lives. While Lion Country Supply isn’t known to carry luxury designer perfumes or colognes, we still couldn’t agree more on the sentiment that scents do make quite a difference. That’s why I would like to take this opportunity to discuss how training scents can improve your hunts. But first, let’s delve into why exactly scent work plays a vital role in what makes your sporting dog a good hunting companion.

The Science of Your Dogs’ Sense of Smell

Much in the way of how humans heavily rely on their sense of sight to perceive the world that surrounds us, dogs also use their senses to assess their environment, right down to the molecule. Of course, the difference is that a dog’s primary sense is their powerful sense of smell. Dog noses have the ability to tell a story from past to future, far greater than humans can begin to comprehend. What causes this extraordinary sense? Well, it’s a combination of intricate nasal architecture and not only one, but two, olfactory systems. Furthermore, dogs are estimated to have up to 300 million specialized olfactory receptors, which are the cells that detect odor. Humans, on the other hand, are estimated to have only a measly 5 or 6 million.

Studies have shown that a dog sniffs an average of five times per second. Unlike how humans inhale and exhale through the same nasal passage, dogs have slits on the sides of their nose. This design creates a low air pressure region that causes air from in front of the dog to then rush in to fill that space, resulting in swirls of air that work to draw in new odor molecules. Essentially, as a dog breathes out, those scent molecules are not forced out of the nose like in humans. (Try smelling something while breathing out!) Over multiple sniffs, a sufficient odor concentration is built up in the dog’s nose to accurately identify the scent.

Close Up of A Dog's Nose

The second olfactory system, comprised of the vomeronasal organ, possesses the ability to detect hormones released by all animals, including humans, by literally “tasting the air.” Have you ever been upset and your dog seemingly came over to comfort you? You can thank the vomeronasal organ for that, as it allows dogs to detect chemical signals, such as stress hormones. This additional olfactory system has its own set of nerves that lead to the olfactory bulb, preventing a mix up of odor molecules with pheromone molecules. As if this weren’t remarkable enough, dogs are able to draw in scent through two tiny ducts in the roof of the mouth without inhaling. This means that dogs are able to detect and locate scent with an open mouth when diving underwater without inhaling any water.

The olfactory bulb, the part of the brain that is completely devoted to receiving and processing scent signals to identify, is considered to be about 40 times greater than the human brain, proportionally speaking. To help you better understand: Imagine the size comparison of a plum and a raisin! Dogs also experience what is called olfactory memory, in that they can remember smells long after initial exposure to that scent.

What does this mean for scent training for hunting? Ultimately, your dog has the capacity to decipher a staggering variety of very specific odors at impressive concentration levels. Right down to the type of tree in the heaviest of cover and all of the birds in the tree, your hunting dog’s nose can detect the recognizable scents that not only trigger a signal to what it is and where it is, but also the direction that it is moving in. Despite this nearly superhero-like sense, there are environmental factors that may affect your dogs’ ability to smell. Conditions such as wind speed and direction, humidity levels, and even the air temperature all can drastically change the dog’s ability to acquire the scent of an object.

For more information on environmental factors see, Environmental Factors Affecting Dogs Scenting Abilities.

Beyond the structure and anatomy that allows for such amazing scent detection, it’s also of great importance for dogs’ noses to be wet. The spongey outside of the canine nose secretes a thin layer of mucus that works to efficiently capture any odor particles on the ground or in the breeze. A dry nose is a missed opportunity for information about their surroundings, which is why dogs may lick their noses when they become dry.

Staff Tip: Is your dog’s nose dry? I would recommend checking out, Dehydration in Dogs if this is accompanied by other symptoms, such as lethargy, weakness, and loss of elasticity in the skin.

No matter what form of hunting your dog will be performing, their nose is going to be their primary way of finding the targeted game. By educating yourself on how a dog’s sense of smell works and factors that can affect their ability, you can become a better trainer and eventually a more successful hunter.

For more information on scent training your dog and a breakdown of scent training products, check back over the next few days for our blogs on How to Scent Train Your Dog and an in-depth look at Environmental Factors Affecting Scent Ability.

Thank you for reading; we hope that we provided new and useful information that helps you and your dog!


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