What Your Dog Can Tell By Smell

Dogs possess an extraordinary sense of smell, far superior to humans’. Their olfactory abilities allow them to detect a vast array of scents, enabling them to gather information about their surroundings, other animals, and even human emotions. Here’s what your dog can tell by smell:

1. Identity

Dogs can recognize familiar individuals, both humans and other animals, by their unique scent signatures. They rely on scent to distinguish between family members, friends, and strangers.

2. Emotions

Dogs can detect human emotions through scent cues. Studies have shown that dogs can differentiate between the scent of a person experiencing fear, happiness, or sadness. They may react differently based on these emotional cues.

3. Health

Dogs can detect changes in a person’s or another animal’s health through scent. They may be able to detect illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, or infections by sniffing bodily odors. Some dogs are trained as medical alert dogs to assist individuals with specific health conditions.

4. Fear or Anxiety

Dogs can detect fear or anxiety in humans and other animals through scent. They may respond by exhibiting calming behaviors or providing comfort to the distressed individual. Dogs trained as emotional support animals can provide comfort to people experiencing anxiety or stress.

5. Hormonal Changes

Dogs can detect hormonal changes in humans and other animals through scent. Female dogs may detect changes in a woman’s menstrual cycle or pregnancy hormones. Dogs can also sense changes in hormone levels associated with stress or arousal.

6. Scent Trails

Dogs have a remarkable ability to track scent trails left behind by other animals or humans. They can follow scent trails over long distances, even across diverse terrain. This skill is utilized in search and rescue operations, law enforcement, and hunting.

7. Social Status

Dogs can gather information about the social status of other animals through scent cues. Dominant individuals may emit different scent signals than submissive individuals, allowing dogs to establish hierarchies within social groups.

8. Territorial Marking

Dogs use scent marking to establish and maintain territory. They deposit pheromones through urine, feces, or glandular secretions to communicate information to other dogs. Scent marking helps dogs identify their territory boundaries and communicate with other animals.

9. Food Preferences

Dogs have a keen sense of smell that helps them assess the quality and safety of food. They can detect spoilage or contamination in food through scent cues. Dogs may also be able to identify specific ingredients or flavors in food based on scent.

10. Tracking

Dogs are skilled trackers and can follow scent trails left behind by animals or humans. They use their sense of smell to locate prey while hunting or track the movements of potential threats. Tracking is a natural behavior for dogs and is often utilized in various canine sports and activities.


The sense of smell plays a vital role in a dog’s life, providing them with valuable information about their environment, other animals, and human emotions. Understanding what your dog can tell by smell can deepen your appreciation for their remarkable olfactory abilities and strengthen the bond between you and your canine companion.

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