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12 Dogs With the Best Sense of Smell According to Science

Grant Piper

By Grant Piper

a beagle dog detection handler working at the airport

Dogs are known for having an incredible sense of smell. In fact, dogs’ noses are thousands of times more powerful than their human equivalent. That can make it hard to understand exactly how and what dogs smell. But did you know that some dogs have better senses of smell than others? Certain breeds have been selectively bred for generations in order to produce the most sensitive and adroit noses on the planet. That means that certain breeds can smell much better than others and are able to pick up on scents that humans and even other dogs might not be able to detect.

Here are the twelve dog breeds that have the absolute best sense of smell.

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The 12 Dogs With the Best Sense of Smell

1. Bloodhound

bloodhound standing on the grass
Image Credit: Vera Zinkova, Shutterstock

Bloodhounds are synonymous with an acute sense of smell. Underneath their saggy jowls and floppy ears lies one of the sharpest noses in the animal kingdom. Bloodhounds’ noses are filled with roughly 230 million olfactory smells or sense receptors. That is 40 times as many as humans have, giving you the sense of how good these dogs can sniff. That translates to roughly 1,000 times stronger than a typical person’s sense of smell. Bloodhounds were bred as hunting dogs, and they still make excellent trackers. Bloodhounds are used to track animals and people and can even pick up scents on muddy roads, in the water, and in the air.

2. Black & Tan Coonhound

Black and Tan Coonhound
Image Credit: WilleeCole Photography, Shutterstock

Black and Tan Coonhounds were bred to track raccoons. These dogs have an incredible sense of smell and are able to stay on the trail of a raccoon for miles. Black and Tan Coonhounds are prized for their determination. They are incredibly persistent hunters. Once they get a scent, they do not want to give up on the chase, no matter how long it lasts. These dogs will trudge up hills, through valleys, bound through the woods, and more in pursuit of their prey.

3. Bluetick Coonhound

bluetick coonhound in the grass
Image Credit: Mary Swift, Shutterstock

Bluetick Coonhounds make the list due to their ability to pick up on extremely faint scents. Where other dogs would get distracted or lose a faint scent, Blueticks hone in on the traces of smells and will latch onto their prey. That makes them amazing hunting and tracking dogs. They also look great too. Many people prize the Bluetick Coonhound for their beautiful coat without knowing just how powerful their noses truly are.

4. Basset Hound

Basset Hound dog
Image Credit: Billion Photos, Shutterstock

Basset Hounds, like their Bloodhound cousins, have a very detailed sense of smell. Some people say that Basset Hounds’ senses of smell are second only to that of the Bloodhounds. Everything about the Basset Hound is designed to capture and retain smells so the dog can keep up with them. Their long floppy ears kick up a scent from the ground and waft it toward the nose. The folds around the eyes and nose are designed to trap and hold scents so that the dog can continue to reference them as they are on the move. Other dogs can lose a scent by moving.

5. Beagle

beagle standing outdoor
Image Credit: Andrey_and_Lesya, Pixabay

Beagles were originally bred to hunt foxes. The nose of a Beagle can pick up on the faint smell of a fox from miles away. As fox hunting has faded into the past, Beagles have found new ways to use their potent noses. Today, Beagles are used as inspection dogs for a variety of different governmental organizations. Beagles can sniff for contraband at ports and airports. They can also sniff agricultural products looking for illegal plants and animals. Many large shipping centers will use Beagles to inspect and examine products and packages to find illegal things that could otherwise go undetected.

6. Dachshund

dachshund dog sitting on the couch
Image Credit: zoschfrosch, Pixabay

Dachshunds are known for their adorable shape, bright faces, and small stature. But they also have amazing senses of smell. Dachshunds were bred to hunt, and they can still be trained to be eager hunters today. Dachshunds were bred to hunt things that live underground. Therefore, they have to be able to pick up on the scent of something even though they might currently be hiding underground. They use their noses to find scents rising out of the dirt. Once they get a sharp bead on their prey, they would then dig out the animal from their burrow and bring it to their master.

7. German Shepherd

german shepherd dog lying on sand
Image Credit: Christel SAGNIEZ, Pixabay

German Shepherds have long been the all-around working dog. They are a jack of all trades. German Shepherds can be found working on police forces, with the military, on bomb squads, in warehouses, and as service dogs. One of the reasons that German Shepherds have been used in such a large number of roles is because of their sense of smell. These dogs can often be found in sniffing roles. Whether they are searching out illegal drugs or explosive residue, German Shepherds are using their sense of smell to help people even as you read this.

8. Labrador Retriever

labrador retriever standing in the grass
Image Credit: Alexander Rim, Shutterstock

Labrador Retrievers have long been one of the most popular dogs in the United States. Like many of the other dogs on this list, Labrador Retrievers were bred as hunting dogs, so they have a highly developed sense of smell. Labrador Retrievers were bred to retrieve ducks from the water. They are great swimmers, can smell birds very well, and can even pick up on scents that are in the water. That is not easy to do. Using their nose, Labrador Retrievers could sniff out the carcasses of ducks and other waterfowl, swim out to them, and bring them to shore in their mouth. Today, they are often employed as search and rescue dogs due to their ability to work with people and pick up on difficult scents.

9. Golden Retriever

american golden retriever sittingh on patio
Image Credit: rustyc, Pixabay

Golden Retrievers are known for many things, but many people don’t realize how acute their noses are. Golden Retrievers serve in a variety of different roles in which their sense of smell is prized. Golden Retrievers make excellent search and rescue dogs. They can be paired with a ground-sniffing dog since Goldens are air-sniffing dogs. They have often been able to pick up on a scent from the air after it has faded from the ground. Golden Retrievers can also be trained to smell out certain types of food. They can be employed as allergy guard dogs. They can sniff a peanut out long before it gets anywhere near a person with a peanut allergy.

10. Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois in the forest
Image Credit: BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock

Like the German Shepherd, the Belgian Malinois is prized for its versatility. These dogs are intensely loyal, trainable, smart, and have an incredible sense of smell. Belgian Malinois are nearly indistinguishable from German Shepherds when they are on the job. Like German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois use their noses for a variety of different jobs, including bomb sniffing, police duty, contraband searching, and more. However, these dogs do not have as many olfactory receptors as hounds. The Belgian Malinois only has 25 million of these cells (compared to 6 million in humans and 240 million in Bloodhounds.) However, their trainability and intelligence help bridge the gap between their smell and that of the Bloodhound.

11. Scottish Terrier

Scottish Terrier standing on stones
Image Credit: Pavel Shlykov, Shutterstock

Scottish Terriers, or Scotties, are adorable and lively. These dogs were bred to smell out prey hiding in underground lairs. Their long noses and wiry hair are designed to pick up on the faintest of smells. The hair around their faces is supposed to stir up scents from the air and the ground and hold them. If the smells get trapped in the dog’s hair it makes it easier for them to keep on a scent. Today, Scotties are known for being excellent guard dogs since they are often alert to the slightest sight, sound, or smell. They can also be trouble if they decide to dig up your yard in search of things hiding underneath your lawn.

12. Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniel standing in field
Image Credit: Martin Christopher Parker, Shutterstock

The Springer Spaniel was originally bred in England. Sometimes it is referred to as the English Springer Spaniel. These dogs were bred to flush out and retrieve game, usually birds. They are incredibly athletic, agile, and trainable. The intelligence of the Springer Spaniel makes it very easy to train and adapt to a job. In Europe, they can be found at airports and in hospitals, sniffing things out. They can detect contraband at ports of entry. They are even being tested to try to see if they can sniff out cancer and other unhealthy cells inside the human body, which shows how powerful their noses genuinely are.

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What Types of Dogs Typically Have the Best Noses?

The dogs that have the best senses of smell are hunting and tracking dogs. These dogs have been bred for generations in order to pick up on a scent, keep it in their nose and follow it. Some hunting dogs were bred to find the bodies of animals that had already been killed (retrievers), and other dogs were bred to sniff out a specific animal and follow it until a hunter can get it (trackers). In both cases, a highly developed sense of smell is imperative for the dog to be successful. Dogs that did not have good senses of smell were not bred for that particular job, which has led to some breeds having incredible noses today.

Nearly every dog on this list was bred for a specific type of hunting, tracking, and retrieving, which has led to their advanced senses of smell.

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All dogs have much better senses of smell than humans. However, some dogs have better senses of smell than their peers. Thanks to selective breeding and job training, some dogs have developed much better noses than others. These twelve incredible dogs have some of the best noses in the world. From the best of the best, like the Bloodhound, to sporty hunting dogs, like the Dachshund and the Scottish Terrier, every dog on this list has a nose worth writing about.

Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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