TED Ed: Dogs’ Sense of Smell Allows Them to ‘See’
In this great lesson from TED Ed, you’ll learn things you never knew about dogs’ sense of smell. For example:
- Dogs have 300 million cells devoted to smell, versus a human’s measly five million.
- In a dog’s brain, the area involved in processing smells – the olfactory bulb – is many times larger than in the human brain.
- A dog can detect smells at a concentration 100 million times less than what our noses pick up.
- Nearly every item in a dog’s environment – every bird, insect, and person – has a distinct “odor profile” that a dog can identify, including where it is and even what direction it’s moving.
- Dogs can smell things we can’t detect, including hormones that all animals release: that’s why a dog can tell if someone is happy or sad or sick or mean, because we release hormones that give off those signals.
Dogs’ Sense of Smell Can Tell the Whole Story
Here’s a wonderful quote from the video: “While we hear or see something in a single moment, a dog smells an entire story from start to finish.” That’s because a dog’s nose can tell where someone has been and what they’ve done, from the residue of all the aromas left over.
Dig Deeper Into Dogs’ Sense of Smell
TED Ed’s “Dig Deeper” section explores so much more, linking to incredible resources. Here are some highlights:
- Visit NOVA’s Dog’s Dazzling Sense of Smell
- This site lists the top ten most sensitive dog noses. (Is your dog breed among them?)
- The BBC offers more insight: How powerful is a dog’s nose?
- National Geographic’s Wonder of Dogs covers all of a dog’s senses.
- Learn how dogs help provide assistance to autistic individuals (Four Paws for Ability) and help people with seizures as a Seizure Dog.
- The canine sense of smell can even detect cancer and bombs. Find out about McBaine, the cancer detection dog. Then, watch here as a dog is trained from a young age to detect explosives.
Love learning about dogs? Then check out more on Learning Liftoff about our fine and furry best friend!
Michael Solow has worked as a teacher, journalist, and commercial writer/creative director. Michael has also taught high school English and junior high math, gaining his teaching certification from Vassar College and a master's degree in the teaching of writing and literature from George Mason University. His writing has been published in the New York Times, the San Francisco Review of Books, TheMorningNews.org, and the Hemingway Review. He is the proud dad of two grown daughters and the happy husband of an elementary school librarian.