Dogs have a remarkable sense of smell. It is one of the things that Mother Nature equipped them with in order to survive. However, not all dogs have the same level of scenting abilities. Which dog has the best sense of smell? Find out here on our countdown of 10 of the world’s best scenting dog breeds.
The English love the thrill of the hunt. That is why they developed the English Pointer to help them in their game fowl hunting exploits. True to its gun dog classification, the Pointer has become one of the best “noses” among the pointers.
The Pointer can sniff out the scent of upland game from a distance with relative ease. It relies on its deep and long muzzle, complete with wide-open nostrils to sniff the scent of a bird in the air. It will freeze in its position and give that characteristic “pointing” stance. This is not the only “skill” that the English Pointer can bring to the table, though. It can also retrieve downed game. Of course, its owner will have to train it to retrieve the wounded or dead game.
Pointers have been in England since the 16th century. It is the result of crossbreeding Greyhounds, Bloodhounds, Bull Terriers, and Foxhounds. It is not surprising why the Pointer has remarkable hunting instincts and scenting abilities. It descended from a long line of venerable hunters, scenthounds, and sighthounds. It is one of the dogs with the best sense of smell and remarkable intelligence.
German Shorthaired Pointer
Many law enforcement units employ the German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) in sniffing out illicit substances and other contraband items. It is proof of the breed’s scenting abilities and trainability. Unlike its cousin across the English Channel, however, the GSP sticks its nose a lot closer to the ground to sniff its quarry. It is like other scenthounds in such respects.
The GSP has a broad and long muzzle. The breed can have a straight nose or a Roman nose. Both of these characteristics allow the breed to track game. One of the things that people do not know about the GSP is that it has webbed feet. This is a gun dog that is proficient in retrieving downed water fowl, much like the Poodle and the Golden Retriever. This makes the GSP a great scenting dog both on land and in the water.
Nobody knows the exact origins of this breed. There are records that show the breed has been in Germany since the 17th century. People know it as the German Bird Dog way back then because of its uncanny ability to point the exact location of upland game birds. One of the foundation breeds that went into the creation of the GSP is the English Pointer.
As the name implies, this is a scenthound that is an excellent hunter of raccoons. They have the distinct physical characteristics of scenthounds. These include a wide and long muzzle, large nose, dewlaps on their chin, and large and droopy ears. They also have the same work ethic as other scenting dogs. A Coonhound is relentless. Once it has picked up the scent of a raccoon, there is no escape for the poor animal.
There are six different breeds of Coonhounds. These are the Black and Tan Coonhound, the Treeing Walker Coonhound, the Redbone Coonhound, the Bluetick Coonhound, the English Coonhound, and the Plott Hound. All six Coonhound breeds have powerful noses. They only differ in the manner in which they scent.
There are Coonhounds that have “hot” noses. They are more efficient when following a fresh trail. Other Coonhounds have a “cold” nose. This makes them especially suited for tracking scent that may be several hours to a few days old.
English Springer Spaniel
There was a time when both the Springer Spaniel and the Cocker Spaniel came from the same litter. Throughout the years, they went their separate ways. Both are excellent upland game hunters. The only difference is that the English Springer Spaniel hunted larger fowl.
The English Springer Spaniel (ESS) also has a great sense of smell. It uses this to flush birds behind thick bushes. As the birds “spring” from their hiding places, the Spaniel’s hunting companion is more than ready to take a shot. ESS dogs are one of the most intelligent gun dogs on the planet. Hunters train them to retrieve downed game and deliver the quarry to the hunter. They also have a soft mouth. English Springer Spaniels also go in a zigzag pattern of scenting. This helps keep the hunter behind the dog and well within the range of a shot.
There are two kinds of English Springer Spaniels. One is for show and the other is for hunting purposes. Field-bred ESS dogs are preferred because of their hunting ability, trainability, and astonishing scenting abilities.
Which dog has the best sense of smell? If you ask Navy SEAL operators, they will always tell you it is the Belgian Malinois. After all, people credit this breed for helping bring to justice two of the modern world’s big bosses of terror – Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Underneath its black muzzle are millions of olfactory cells that allow the Belgian Malinois to track scent particles in the air. Many people recognize the breed’s remarkable sense of smell. That is why they train the breed for a variety of scent-related tasks. They can detect explosives, narcotics, and fire accelerants. Belgian Malinois dogs are also excellent when it comes to tracking and trailing humans, such as fugitives and lost persons.
Not only is the Belgian Malinois excellent in detecting contraband and dangerous objects; it can also detect some form of cancers. They can detect the presence of tumor cells in the colon, breast, and prostate. They do this by sniffing at the skin, breath, or bodily fluids of affected people.
America’s darling also happens to be one of the dogs with the best sense of smell. With a mild and calm temperament and a very gentle disposition, the Labrador Retriever is a favorite of many dog lovers around the world. This breed is not a scenthound. However, it is intelligent enough that people can train it to perform the duties of a scenthound.
Labs are a great all-around breed. They can serve different functions, provided you train them in their role. Labradors are excellent hunting dogs, too. They can air-scent prey and retrieve downed game in the water. Labrador Retrievers are best known for their waterfowling abilities. They accompany their human master as they go hunting for waterfowl like geese, duck, and others.
Military, police, and security units also depend on the Lab’s scenting abilities for detection work. You see them in airports and in places where there is a large gathering of people. They have a sweet nature that makes people feel at ease with them. These dogs can also serve as therapy dogs and assistance dogs. They can sniff out threats to protect and save their masters.
Check out our guide on the Best Dog Food for Labs.
The German Shepherd is not a scenthound. However, it has an astonishing number of olfactory receptors in its nose that allows it to pick up a scent in the air. The GSD is like the English Pointer that prefers to stick its muzzle in the air rather than touch the ground. Of course, there will always be instances when the GSD will have to place its nose close to the ground to pick up a scent.
With more than 225 million olfactory cells, the GSD is a favorite among hunters, search and rescue organizations, and police and military units. They rely on the breed’s scenting abilities to look for missing persons, survivors, fugitives, contraband items, and other things. It sticks its long and powerful nose in the air to pick up any scent trail. Its favorite scent? That of humans.
What makes the GSD so well-loved is its intelligence. This is the world’s third most intelligent breed. When you combine the GSD’s intelligence with its scenting abilities, trainability, obedience, and dedication, you have a dog breed that is the perfect all-around working dog.
Head over to our review of Dog Food for German Shepherds for more choices.
The Beagle is a fun-loving scenthound that is the perfect companion for many modern families. Law enforcement units also love Snoopy’s brethren. This is a dog that has a remarkable sense of smell that can rival that of the German Shepherd. The real advantage of the Beagle over its German counterpart is its loving nature.
Roaming airport security personnel often use the Beagle to sniff baggage and other stuff of passengers. People do not mind the sniffing, thinking that the dog is harmless. Put a German Shepherd on the prowl and it can unsettle passengers. German Shepherds strike fear into some people because of their imposing presence. On the other hand, people look at Beagles as the direct opposite of GSDs. They are lovable and cute.
What they do not know is underneath its adorable looks, the Beagle is a pureblooded scenthound. It can distinguish up to 50 different scents. Beagles share many characteristics with their fellow scenthounds. They are very persistent and quite stubborn. Nothing can make a Beagle happier than being able to use its nose.
If you are looking for more options, check out our guide on Dog Food for Beagles.
There are some people who laugh at the short-legged and stocky nature of the Basset Hound. Some also laugh at its sad, elongated, and pleading face. What they do not realize is that this one of the dogs with the best sense of smell. That is why it has short legs to allow it stick its large nose a lot closer to the ground. After all, the word “basset” is French for “very low”.
Like many scenthounds, the Basset has an unquestionable dedication to its work. The moment it picks up a scent on the ground, there is no stopping it. The only way you can stop the Basset in its tracks is by introducing a more powerful scent. It has many features that it got from one of its ancestors – the Bloodhound. The large nose contains up to 250 million olfactory bulbs that account for its astonishing scenting abilities.
The Basset Hound also has long and large drooping ears. They work to channel scent particles to the front of the dog’s face where its nose can pick it up. The dewlap on the dog’s chin also helps catch stray scent molecules. These anatomical features are enough to make the Basset the world’s second-best scenting dog breed.
Which dog has the best sense of smell? There can only be one king of the scenting canines and this is the Bloodhound. This breed’s nasal cavity comes with a lining filled with about 300 million olfactory bulbs. This is more than 40 times the number of olfactory cells in humans. In addition to its numerous olfactory bulbs, the dog also has other anatomical features that allow it to catch more scent in the air. This includes the shawl under its neck and lips. It works to catch stray scent molecules that may be present in the air.
With this scenting prowess, a Bloodhound can distinguish a human scent from other types of scent even if that scent is already several days old. These dogs are famous for trailing fugitives and lost persons. They take the scent of the person’s “scent article”. They can then zero-in on the scent. Unlike other scenthounds, Bloodhounds focus on the drift of scent instead of the actual path taken by the quarry. As such, the Bloodhound is like the Pointer that sticks its nose in the air to scent. This allows the Bloodhound to get to the quarry a lot faster as it is able to cut corners.
In case the Bloodhound loses the scent, it puts its stubbornness to good use. It is unrelenting. It will try to backtrack and move again from there. Such a dedication to the job is admirable. And with a powerful sense of smell, the quarry is as good as found.
It is not surprising that many of the dogs with the best sense of smell belong to the sporting or hunting group. They need a very keen sense of smell to track or trail their quarry.