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How Dogs Perceive Their World Through Smell

A new book by researcher Dr. Alexandra Horowitz looks at a dog's sense of smell.

Dr. Alexandra Horowitz recently was interviewed on NPR regarding a dog's sense of smell. Dr. Horowitz is a researcher and professor of psychology, animal behavior and canine cognition at Barnard College, Columbia University.

Dogs have almost 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses. Compare this to humans who have about six million. If you look at the proportion of a dog's brain that is dedicated to processing scent, it's approximately 40 times bigger than in our brains.

Dogs can be trained to sniff out explosives, drugs, currency and blood, as well as other human scents. Other unusual uses for a dog's sense of smell include scenting for bed bugs and animal scat. Dogs can also use their amazing sense of smell to sniff out cancer and the onset of migraines, narcolepsy attacks, falling or spiking sugar levels (diabetes), seizures and anxiety attacks.

You can listen to this fascinating interview with Dr. Horowitz where she discusses a dog's sense of smell, how they use scent to perceive the world, and advances in training scent detection dogs. The interview is available at

Photo credit: Georgie Pauwels big nose via photopin (license)


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