With a nose as long as Sam’s, his ability to smell things has to be incredible, right? If he wasn’t so ADHD, I’d try to get him into some sort of nose-training, because he can certainly sniff things out (just drop a speck of cheese anywhere in the house and he’ll find it). And yet it takes him forever to locate the absolute perfect spot upon which to pee. He’ll sniff and sniff which I think is the equivalent of checking his daily ‘p-mail’ (like humans checking their inbox or Facebook), and then circle and sniff some more until he finds the exact perfect spot where upon he will either (a) miss the spot he just spent several moments sniffing out by several inches (hmm, could his depth perception be off?) or (b) more often than not just mark a few drops–basically replying to a p-mail (yup, I was here and if you don’t believe it just sniff me out). For the record, it can be especially maddening at 11:30 at night during the winter months when it’s darn cold and/or snowy. Grr.
We walk a couple of times a day, once early in the morning and once when I get home in the evening. Sure he’s all gung-ho to be out and about (even with the increasingly shorter daylight hours), checking the p-mail and immersing himself in all the smells of autumn (I guess falling leaves are far more fragrant than summer leaves and grass because he REALLY takes them in, inhaling deeply and repeatedly). Now I have to give more than the usual quick tug on the leash to break his fascination with a spot or a “come on, let’s go” admonishment in order to continue moving along. This morning, I wasn’t sure if I could even pull him away from a couple of spots. More than once nearly pulled my shoulder out of its socket (dang that dog is wicked strong!) and I sure wasn’t prepared for the upper body workout. Guess I won’t need to be doing any weights tonight in my routine. 🙂
For Sam, it’s all about the moment even when if those moments are fleeting, especially in the summer time when there’s so much to distract him. One second it’s “ooh, a baby stroller,” next it’s “ahh, what’s this shiny object?” then it’s “oh Y-E-S, a butterfly!” You get the picture. So any legitimate tracking work is kind of out of the question. He will however continue to sniff–there’s no doubt about that and there’s definitely a whole lot more sniffing in the autumn with its distinctive odors. There really isn’t anything as unique as the scent of fallen leaves (unless you’re addicted to pumpkin spice lattes which are the essence of autumnal smells for humans). So with Sam’s nose, autumn must send him into smell Nirvana for all the stopping and sniffing he does.
Dog olfactory abilities are widely known to be infinitely greater than ours. Of all of a dog’s senses, his sense of smell is the most keen. Human scent receptors number around 5 million whereas a dog’s range anywhere from 125-300 million. That’s a whole lotta ‘sniff-eration.’ In addition to all those receptors, the portion of a dog’s brain devoted to analyzing those scents is 40 times larger than a human’s brain. Dogs can identify scents anywhere between 1,000 and 10,000 times better than us. The bony ridge inside of a dog’s nose contains detection cells and can vary depending upon the size of the dog’s nose (in Sam’s case, he must be an AAA+ scent processor just based on size). Dogs with longer or wider noses have more surface area than dogs with flat faces or short noses for smell receptor cells. When a dog breaths normally, air doesn’t pass directly over the receptors but if he takes in a deep sniff, the air moves all the way to the smell receptors near the back of the dog’s snout.
We already know dogs have amazing smelling abilities; they can detect a drop of blood in 5 quarts of water, find a lost person, even warn when a seizure or low blood sugar threatens. While I’d prefer Sam not take up so much bloody time sniffing the sidewalk nearly inside out, I know it yields tremendous amounts of information to him. Like whether or not his kitty friend has been around since the last time we saw her, whether a fox or coyote has marked a tree or shrub along our route, identify his favorite RN at hospice that rubs his ears just so and any other kinds of scenarios that pique his interest.
With all that in mind knowing how a dog’s brain works along with those scent receptors, I’m mostly cool with his ‘sniff-erator’ abilities (ok, except when he tries to smell someone’s crotch–do they do that just to embarrass us or because it just happens to be right in front of his nose at the perfect height?). Knowing his level of attention, the later is probably a safe conclusion. In another nano-second, he’ll be completely enthralled with a passing butterfly.
Is your dog a super-sniffer? Is it his consuming passion during autumn walks? Does he read a lot of p-mail when he’s out?