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A perfect dog nose description...
It's said that if a pot of stew is cooking on the stove that a human can smell the stew but a dog smells the beef, carrots, peas, potatoes, spices, and all the other individual ingredients. Source: Dogs Detect Cancer and Save Lives by Nicole Pajer
A dog's nose is powerful!
Here are a few examples of what it can do...
The average dog has around 220 million scent receptors in its nose compared to the measly 5 million that humans have. In addition, the part of the dog's brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is proportionally forty times greater than that of humans. Because of these differences, dogs can identify smells somewhere between a thousand and ten thousand times better than humans. Source: Do Dogs Dream? and How to Speak Dog by Stanley Coren.
All dogs are superior to humans in terms of detecting odors. But some breeds, especially scent hounds, have better noses than others due to selective breeding.
Basset Hounds were originally bred in France to hunt by scent rather than sight. They were specifically used to trail small game such as rabbits and hare. Therefore, they were bred to have a strong ability to detect and distinguish odors and a relentless desire to follow a trail.
The Basset's nose is second only to the Bloodhound in its tracking ability.
The nose is primary. You and I use our eyes first. But, a dog relies primarily on his sense of smell to gather information and interpret his environment.
Take a Basset Hound out for a walk and you'll notice that while he does react to sounds and does look around, he usually walks with his nose to the ground. Encounter another dog along the way and you'll find that it's normal for them to stop and immediately sniff one another spending more time at this ritual if they are strangers.
Dogs are naturally curious. Something new in the environment? A dog checks it out by sniffing it. For example, sometimes my Basset Hound stops to explore a car parked on the side of the street. While I stand there and look at it, he spends a lot of time sniffing it. I can describe what the car looks like... color, make, model, etc. He sniffs it all over including the tires and I imagine that if he could talk, he would probably tell me exactly where that car has been.
When I arrive home after being out, of course my dog will hear and see me. But when he runs over to greet me, the first thing he'll do is sniff. He knows what I was doing based upon how I smell. He'll be thinking to himself... Oh, you went out to eat or you were at gramma's house holding that cat that I can't stand. When strangers come to the house, he'll want to sniff their legs to learn all about them.
Being a scent hound, the Basset Hound's nose is especially sensitive. Therefore when outside, he can become singularly focused on a scent and then all he wants to do is follow his nose.
Here's an example of nose following. My Basset Hound, Hunter, became friends with a small dog in the neighborhood named Harry. Frequently when out for a walk, we would run into Harry and his owner and stop to socialize. Of course, Hunter quickly became familiar with Harry's scent.
Every once in a while when out for a walk, Hunter would be following his nose and he was in such a hurry. He wouldn't slow down. Even when I told him to "heel", he pulled me along leaving me to wonder... What's the big rush? Well, eventually I would spot Harry and his owner walking up ahead of us. I realized, Hunter knew all along that Harry was out for a walk too. He wanted to get to his best buddy as fast as he could.
My Basset Hound is the beloved family pet. We don't hunt and probably never will. But, we do take him for lots of long walks.
A typical on-leash, daily walk goes something like this (from his perspective)...
1. Walk out the garage door and pee on front lawn.
2. Walk down the driveway and sniff the mailbox post for as long I can until I'm forced to move on. While sniffing the post, use my keen sense of smell to identify other dogs from the neighborhood that have been in my area.
3. Walk around with my nose to the ground and take in all of the smells. When I find one that's really interesting, zero in on it, and then actively follow it while dragging my owner around in directions that makes no sense to her.
4. When my owner gets sick of being dragged around, she'll issue the "heel" command to let me know that she wants me to walk by her side. I do as I'm told and walk with my nose to the ground.
5. Eventually I get distracted when I detect another interesting scent that I really want to follow and then I try to pull away. If my owner is in a patient mood, she'll let me follow the scent. If not, she'll continue walking and expect me to do the same. We continue with this back and forth tug of war until we get home.
6. On a nice day, we sit in the sun on the driveway. I process all the odors in the air with quick, short sniffing nose motions. Sometimes I can tell that my owner is staring at my nose wondering what I am sensing. I know it's a mystery to her because my nose is supreme.
7. Then my owner decides that it's time to go inside and we do.
Given that a Basset Hound is a scent hound, it's incredibly silly that we taught ours the "look" command. Actually, my husband taught him this when he was just a pup. Here's how the story goes...
Quite frequently when we walk the dog, we run into a rabbit or two as there are many in our neighborhood. Whenever this happened, my husband would shout out "Hunter, look!" to tell our Basset Hound, Hunter, that there's a rabbit nearby for him to chase.
Hunter quickly learned that whenever someone shouted "Look!" that there was a rabbit in the area and he would get all excited. But instead of looking for the a rabbit, he would naturally put his head to the ground and start sniffing around to find its scent. Meanwhile, the rabbit is frozen due to fright in plain sight... my husband's sight (not Hunter's) as he continues to shout out "Hunter, look!' while pointing at the rabbit.
Sometimes Hunter would eventually pick up the scent and would chase the rabbit away. Other times the rabbit would be scared away by my husband's ridiculous shouting ("look, look, look!") and pointing motions.
Actually, the only time Hunter "looks" is when he's inside. If we see something outside the window, like a rabbit or squirrel and shout the "look" command, then Hunter runs to the window, props his front paws on the window sill, and looks out the window excitedly while wagging his tail.
So as you can imagine... no matter how hard we try to force our dog to LOOK and see the world through his EYES in the same manner that we do, from a Basset Hound's perspective...
the Nose Rules!
When I first came here, my pack was always in a hurry. Rushing me around with statements like this: "Hurry up and poop! I'm gonna be late for work!" And they taught me to walk by their side at a pace of their choosing (usually faster than I desire). But, over the years I taught them something too. My philosophy...
Sometimes you have to slow down and smell the roses... not just the whole rose. But, each individual petal.
And thankfully, there are times when that's exactly what we do.