Comparing Dog and Human Olfaction

Photo of a map showing the distance from Calgary to Greenland and Mexico City

A dog’s sense of smell (aka olfaction) is 10,000 – 100,000 times stronger than a human’s. What does that mind-numbing number mean?

Picture it on a map. Let’s be conservative: say the canine sense of smell is 10,000 better. According to James Walker, former researcher at the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University, if you make an analogy to vision, items humans could see clearly at a third of a mile (1/2 km), a dog could see just as well more than 3000 miles away (> 4800 km). That’s about the distance from:

  • Calgary to the North Pole (4,345 km), Greenland (3814 km), Mexico City (3752 km) or the Russian Federation
  • Canada is approx. 5187 km wide and it takes seven days to drive from the west coast in Vancouver, BC to the east cost in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Depending on the scent and environment, dogs detect one part per billion – trillion (sources disagree on the exact amount). Alexandra Horowitz, a dog-cognition researcher, says that humans can detect a teaspoon of sugar in 1 cup of coffee, while dogs can detect 1 teaspoon of sugar in 2 Olympic sized pools (equivalent to a million gallons of water). According to Nova scienceNOW, That’s like finding a whiff of one rotten apple in two million barrels.




About Dr. Carla Simon (132 Articles)
From bed bugs to birds, from narcotics to nosework, Dr. Carla Simon, MD, BSc, MBA has trained thousands of students around the world, since 1999.

Questions and comments are welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: