There is an article on Prevention.com about people who have extraordinarily heightened senses. For example, one lady has a condition called Misophonia, which gives her an exceptional sense of hearing. Things like people chewing, a pen clicking or someone dragging their feet will drive her crazy. Another has Tetrachromacy, whereas she can see thousands of colors in everything… colors that exist, but are not visible to the normal eye. Although not mentioned in the article, there is a condition called Hyperosmia that gives a human a heightened sense of smell. One particular subject is able to smell when her neighbor puts on his deodorant in the morning. When running, she can smell where every wild animal marked. And when dining, she is able to discern each individual ingredient in a recipe.1
Amazing, isn’t it? Just how different is hypersomnia from the sense of smell that our canine friends possess? What would it be like to have “super power” smelling ability?
Depending on what source you read, most scientists believe that a Dogs’ sense of smell is 10,000 – 100,000 times more acute than our own. A dog can smell week-old human fingerprints and detect scents up to 40 feet underground.2 James Walker, former director of the Sensory Research Institute of Florida State University and his colleagues concluded during a study of a dog’s sense of smell that “If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3000 miles away and see well.3
Dogs don’t just smell things that we can’t… it’s more than that. Their sniffing tells a story. When your dog greets another dog by sniffing, he learns what the other dog ate that day, what he touched, what kind of mood he is in, who he came in contact with, if he’s been sick, where he’s been, etc., etc., etc.! We might smell fresh baked cookies and think, “Mmmm…Cookies!”, a dog would think, “Mmmmm… brown sugar, vanilla, chocolate chips, whole wheat flour, walnuts, 2 day old milk, eggs… all mixed by Mom’s hands!”
There are some fascinating true stories about the acuteness of a dog’s sense of smell. An article from several years ago tells about a dog who could sniff-out whale feces from a boat to help scientists locate these sea creatures in order to study their health. Another story tells of a drug-sniffing dog who found 300+ pounds of marijuana concealed in a compartment in the fuel tank on a charter bus. The marijuana was vacuum sealed, cellophane wrapped, and covered in ammonia!! 4 Incredible!
We have been able to use a dog’s sense of smell to benefit mankind in so many ways and we’re only beginning to realize the potential. Today’s working dogs detect explosives, illegal drugs, and firearms. They help find cadavers, crime evidence, and tiny droplets of human blood. They can find bed bugs, and termites, and mold. “Sniffers” are even able to detect cancer, blood sugar imbalances, and seizures. Dogs can even smell emotions such fear, anxiety, and sadness.
There is a great book called “Sniffer Dogs” by Nancy Castaldo “How dogs and their noses save the world”. You might also enjoy this little video with gives more detail about how dogs noses work: http://io9.com/how-dogs-see-the-world-using-their-powerful-sense-of-1683341152 It is a fascinating study!