Scent Acuity of Dogs – Another Reason Kids Need Dogs

Posted on: September 27th, 2012 by Barbara Denzer No Comments

Bloodhound by Jeff Schettler

Last week I was shopping in a home accessories store. I turned down an aisle and all of a sudden I was transported to my Aunt Jessie’s house. I hadnt been there or even thought of it since I was 12 (they moved) – yet I was clearly remembering every detail of it because a pleasant fragrance in the store aisle smelled “exactly” like that house.

I have a lot of fragrance connections but had never experienced something quite that strong or totally surprising.  I literally felt like I was standing in the living room – next to the bridge table! I tried to figure out which product the long-lost aroma was coming from but there were too many soaps and packets of closet fragrances for me to identify it.  I smelled so many different ones that quickly I couldnt tell any of them apart.

Dogs dont have that problem. They can isolate scents and have more than 10,000* times the ability to identify scents as we do.

We are all familiar with a fragrance we like because it reminds us of cinnamon buns, or a flower we like, or a person that wears it.  We use air fresheners and candles to add an aroma we like to our homes – to make the house more pleasant.

In my job, which involves a lot of pet product development, when we’re talking about shampoos for dogs we always choose fragrances that people like. That’s based on the fact that we assume if dogs chose a fragrance, they’d prefer something fishy – or even worse! And, if we could stand the smell, it would probably make them like down and roll in the imagined scent.  We have long conversations wondering if dogs prefer smelling like coconut with white ginger or green apple and pomegranate. Do other dogs make fun of them for having a “sissy” scent? Or, do other dogs automatically elevate them to Alpha position if they smell like dead fish? Do dogs sniff fire hydrants to discern who’s wearing “bacon” today? There’s so much about dogs that we don’t know!

What does this have to do with dogs and kids? One of the reasons to encourage a relationship between dogs and kids is that dogs become very protective of their family members. They have the ability to “smell” if kids are afraid of something or someone. Our body scents change when we change emotionally or physically. When we’re afraid, we emit a different scent than normal. We don’t recognize this, but dogs do. If a stranger enters our home or yard, s/he has a distinctly different scent than the family members. If it’s a stranger than wishes us harm, his/her scent (maybe it’s adrenaline?) will alert a dog to danger (not to mention if they make a noise – hearing is a subject for another day.)  Dogs have an ability to smell fear and danger – and dogs protect our kids.

*Humans have 5 million scent detecting cells. Different dog breeds range from 125 million scent receptors for a Dachshund to over 300 million for a Bloodhound. Combine that with the fact that Dogs have 40% more brain receptors for smell than humans and they can distinguish up to 10,000 times more scents than humans.

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