Dog Nose Slits: The Secret of the Canine Superpower

We all know that dogs have many wonderful qualities, not the least of which is an incredible sense of smell. Scientists estimate that dogs can smell anywhere from 10,000-100,000 times better than humans. According to one expert, this is like being able to sniff out one rotten apple amongst 2 million barrels.

Dogs can process around 30,000-100,000 different odors in comparison to our measly 4,000-10,000, and the amount of brain power given over to scent is 40 times greater than that of humans. This gives dogs the ability to detect drugs, explosives, currency, illegally imported food and plant material, bedbugs, missing people, cancer, cadavers, low blood sugar, and so much more.

If you’ve ever wondered what makes a dog’s nose so special, the team at Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates has the answer – dog nose slits!

The Anatomy of a Dog Nose

When a dog inhales, a fold of tissue just inside the nostril directs the air on two distinct pathways. One path takes the majority of the air into the lungs, while a smaller amount (about 12 percent) is shunted into an area in the back of the nose dedicated to scent analysis.

Once there, the air circulates through a series of bony structures called “turbinates.” Turbinates are lines with olfactory sensors that sift through the various odor molecules.

The Role of Dog Nose Slits

It’s when dogs exhale that dog nose slits perform their critical function. Rather than just releasing spent air like human noses do, those cute little slits on each side of a dog’s nose swirl exhaled air in such a way that it helps to usher in new air. As a result, dogs are essentially able to breath and smell continuously.

Fun and Games

Some breeds have better sniffers than others, but all dogs have amazing noses. You can help your super sniffer become even better at odor detection while still having fun and stimulating their brain. Consider the following nose work games:

  • Smell-it-find-it – Hold your dog in a sit/stay position and hide a treat in the next room. Encourage your dog to “find it” as they run around sniffing. To make it easier at first, tap your hand near the location of the treat or make a “scent trail” by dragging the treat across the floor, leading up to where it’s hidden. Over time, your dog will catch on and won’t need any help, and you can slowly make the hiding spots more challenging.
  • Which hand? – Put a treat in one of your hands and then close both hands. Hold them out to your dog, and ask them to “find it.” If they guess correctly, give them the treat; if they choose incorrectly, show them the treat and try again. Gradually work toward putting the treat in your hand behind your back so your dog has to use their nose instead of their eyes.

If you’d like to take your pet’s nose to the next level, there are AKC programs to earn titles in scent work! It’s easy, fun, and a lot of dogs love it! If you have any other questions or concerns about your pet, please don’t hesitate to contact our staff. We’re always here to help!