11 Surprising Things Dogs Smell That Humans Can’t

Humans are awesome at a lot of things: walking, breathing, computer programming, etc. But one thing we can’t seem to do is smell.

That’s right; while dogs have a sense of smell up to 100,000 times more sensitive than ours, they’re not the only animals that get to take in the world through their noses.

Bees can smell pollen from miles away, and rats can smell the difference between two identical odors after sniffing them for as little as three milliseconds.

But, the way animals smell is so different from us. Some dogs can smell odors four times better than humans and can detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water!  

One of the best things about having a dog is the unconditional love that they give you. But did you know that dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than that of humans?

It’s no wonder that they can smell things that we can’t. So, next time you’re hanging out with your furry friend, keep this list of 11 smells that they can sense but you can’t in mind! 


1. Electricity 

We may have opposable thumbs and advanced verbal communication, but one thing humans will never be able to do is sniff out electricity like a dog.

That’s because we don’t have an olfactory system that’s anywhere near as sensitive as a dog’s, says Martin Buck. Buck is an emeritus professor of biological psychology at the University of London and is a fellow of the Royal Society, supporting and promoting the sciences.

“Dogs have about 20 times more smell receptors than humans,” Buck explains in a 2012 article published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 

2. High blood pressure 

Dogs have a unique and powerful sense of smell, which helps them find their way home, sniff out bombs, and even detect certain medical conditions.

In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, researchers found that dogs can reliably detect whether an owner has high blood pressure.

In the study, the researchers examined whether blood pressure medication affected the dogs’ ability to smell hypertension. 

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3. Cancer 

The ability of dogs to detect cancer is one of the most popular and well-known canine superpowers.

It’s easy to see why: It’s pretty terrifying to think about how many cancer diagnoses could be made earlier if dogs were able to smell cancer in people, just as they can smell in someone who has recently consumed garlic or onions.

But while some dogs can detect cancer in people, it’s not nearly as common as other canine superpowers, like smelling when a person is about to have a seizure. 


4. Bombs and weapons 

X-ray machines that check for weapons and bombs at airports are a great way to protect travelers. Can dogs smell bombs and weapons?

Sure, but they are much better at sniffing out drugs and other illicit substances. Many dogs are trained to find bombs and weapons, but their real strength is finding the drugs people are trying to hide. 

It is a well-known fact that dogs have hundreds of millions of more smell receptors than we do, but what is less known is that dogs can use their sense of smell to detect bombs and weapons.

The use of dogs in war has a long history: they were used by the Greeks, the Romans, and throughout the Middle Ages in the form of the Molosser, a dog of gigantic proportions used as a battle companion. 

There are currently over 3,500 working dogs in the US Air Force, the US Marines, and the US Navy, and they are capable of detecting over five hundred different types of bombs and weapons.

Over 1,000 dogs have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US Army, and they have been responsible for detecting bombs and so on. 

5. Bedbugs 

People have been forcibly removed from their homes when they have been found to harbor the little blood-sucking critters, but what if you aren’t sure your home is infected?

The answer lies in a dog’s nose. According to the EPA, trained dogs are twice as accurate as humans at detecting trace chemicals that indicate bedbugs in a given location. 

6. Cadavers 

Cadavers have a very special meaning for dogs. Scientists and law enforcement commonly use dogs as detectors for finding traces of dead people.

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Cadavers have a very special smell that dogs have the ability to sense. Cadaver dogs have to be trained to associate this smell with a reward. During training a dog, the dog is offered a treat every time he finds the smell of a cadaver. 


7. Diabetes 

Dogs have a sense of smell 1000x stronger than humans do, which means they’re able to pick up scents we can’t even detect. It also means they can smell diabetes.

According to a recent study published in Diabetes Care, diabetic dogs sniffing out their owners with the disease can detect its scent from up to 5 feet away.

To be fair, the researchers aren’t sure if dogs can smell diabetes itself, but they know that dogs are sensitive to the smells present in diabetic saliva samples. 

8. Ovulation 

Dogs are known for their ability to sense danger or locate an object or person via its scent. Dogs can smell 1000 times better than humans.

Dogs can pick up a scent equivalent to one-trillionth of a single drop of blood in a million gallons of water. Dogs can smell fear, pain, cancer, and death. 

Dog Sense, a company in the United Kingdom, claims that its specially trained dogs can detect when women are about to ovulate. Their owner, Andy Skelton, says that dogs can smell chemicals that are released in a woman’s urine during ovulation. 

9. Whale poop 

After a long day at sea, a humpback whale returns to the surface to breathe. Just before the whale breaches the surface, dogs stationed on the beach can be seen sniffing the air.

This is because whales, like all mammals, have a distinct smell, and the dogs can pick up these scents from the air. The dogs are trained to pick up on these scents to detect whales for tracking and conservation. 


10. Emotions 

Dogs are well known for their exceptional smelling abilities. Their sense of smell is actually 1,000 to 10,000,000 times stronger than a human’s.

With an acute sense of smell, dogs can tell you an incredible amount about their surroundings. Beyond informing them what objects are in the area, dogs can also determine what emotions you are experiencing. 

11. DVDs 

Did you know dogs can smell DVDs? Scientists used brain scans to find out exactly what dogs are smelling when they sniff out contraband.

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One of the dogs sniffed out a DVD of “Pulp Fiction,” suggesting that dogs know what humans are watching. Some studies suggest dogs can smell cancer and blood sugar levels, which could mean that dogs will someday be doctors. 

There are many things that humans can smell that dogs cannot; the smell of the rain, the smell of the ocean, the smell of a rose.

But there are also some smells that dogs can smell better than we can. As a result, our canine best friends can smell some pretty bizarre things, and some of them will surprise you. 

We humans may have very sensitive noses, but the truth is that we can’t smell nearly as many odors as dogs. Researchers estimate that we can detect less than one percent of the odors that dogs can.

Dogs have more than 220 million scent receptors in their noses, compared to our measly 5 million. So, what do they smell that we don’t? The following are just a few of the odors that dogs—but not humans—can detect. 

Dogs have hundreds of times more olfactory receptors than humans. That’s why they use their noses to process a lot more information than we do- they can smell a wider range of smells, and they can tell more about each scent than we do.

They can smell fear, which makes them very good at keeping workers safe by sniffing out bombs and other dangerous substances.

They can smell when kids are coming down with illnesses like cancer. Some dogs can even smell when the owner is pregnant- so it’s no wonder so many people have dogs! 

For millions around the world, dogs are more than family members—they’re best friends. But if you’re thinking of getting a dog, it’s important to know that a dog’s primary responsibility is to make you happy.

Dogs have a keen ability to sense moods and pick up on your emotions. If your energy is low, your dog will know it. If you’re in a bad mood, he’ll sense it. And if you’re feeling happy, he’ll be happy, too. 

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