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Do Dogs Really See With Their Noses?


What would it be like to experience the world as a dog?

You might hear things you don’t normally hear (dogs can hear almost double the frequency that humans can), and you might not see as clearly as you do in a human body (dogs see fewer colors and less contrast).

But you’d experience a whole new world through your nose.

Alexandra Horowitz, author of Inside of a Dog and assistant professor of psychology at Barnard College, explains in the video above how dogs actually use their noses to see and track past and future events. If your dog seems suspicious about any visitors, it may be because their nose is telling them where they’ve been, what they had for breakfast, and how they are feeling. Think you can pull a fast one on your dog and stop at McDonalds on your way home without him? He’ll even smell your french fries if you’ve already eaten all of them.

The olfactory system is more essential to dogs than any other sense. Dogs often lose partial to full hearing as they age but can still function just fine in our human world. Dogs can manage with vision loss, too. (I’ve seen dogs chase balls at full speed who had no vision. I only later was told that they were blind.) But without their ability to smell, dogs couldn’t function easily.

A dog’s nose is so amazing, it can even smell stress and anger through the hormones that are released when someone experiences these emotions. That’s why your dog knows when you had a rough day at work. And they can use that sense of smell to alert us to invisible threats, such as bombs and cancer cells.

Next time you greet your dog after being away, remember that he’ll not only know where you’ve been, but he might know your future, too. If there is a breeze, he’ll be able to detect any visitors coming your way, long before they can be heard or seen. Sounds like that psychic you’ve wanted to consult might have four paws and a nose.



4 thoughts on “Do Dogs Really See With Their Noses?

  1. Canine Nosework is a great sport where your dog can unleash the power of his nose for fun. Not only is it a fun, stimulating activity but it also a great confidence booster for shy or timid dogs. I have watched not only my dachshund grow but also the other dogs in his class gain new found confidence as we progress through the training.
    I have also found the icalm to be a valuable tool to help keep him calm and focused in between his “turn” to run a search. We use the CDs for home and the icalm for travel, when I turn them on Piper immediately calms.

  2. Thank you!

  3. My Emma Kay is a busy Beagle. Nose to the ground, or the air, every minute of the day. Enough said!

  4. Love the video! I’m going to pay a lot more attention to Emma Kay’s sniffing from now on and try to guess what she’s tracking. I know her Beagle nose is sensitive but really learned a lot from the video.

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