4 min read


Can Dogs Hear or Smell Better?



4 min read


Can Dogs Hear or Smell Better?


It's no secret that dogs rely on both their sense of hearing and smell in order to get through life, but have you ever wondered which helps them more? Like us, dogs have visual, hearing, olfactory, taste, and touch senses. However, the physiology of these senses is quite different in dogs than humans. 

Smell is the most important sense to your dog, compared to humans, who predominantly rely on sight. Where a human has approximately five million scent glands, dogs have anywhere between 125 million and 300 million - depending on the breed. Hearing is the other essential sensory organ to your pup, and is nearly just as important as their sense of smell. While their sense of smell ranks first, their hearing is a close second. 


Signs a Dog Can Smell Better Than They Can Hear

It's true - dogs take the cake when it comes to having more superior senses than humans. As we discussed, both their sense of smell and hearing are excellent, but their nose is just a little bit better. Just how good their sniffer is will depend on numerous factors, namely breed and training. 

Dogs are often trained to smell bombs, drugs, and other substances. Furthermore, there are numerous reports of dogs having the ability to smell cancer in humans. Pretty impressive, wouldn't you say? 

If you want to learn more about your dog's senses, we recommend observing your pup closely in different situations and seeing how they react. Every dog is different, so while one may start to howl or bark when they smell danger or something they've never been exposed to, another may raise their ears and rely on their other senses to figure out what's going on. 

When it comes to their nose and ears, the first thing to keep in mind is that even though the human brain is an estimated 10 times larger, the part of the brain that controls smell is 40 million times bigger in dogs. This explains a lot, if you ask us! Even though, scientifically-speaking, your dog's sense of smell is much stronger than their hearing, there may be certain pups who flip flop on this. Pay attention to your pooch and how they react to new environments in order to determine which is of more use to them. 

Body Language

Signs your dog can smell better than they can hear are:

  • Digging
  • Sniffing
  • Twitching Whiskers
  • Nose Wrinkled

Other Signs

Here are other signs your dog has a great sense of smell:

  • Focused On The Area Around Them, Nose To The Ground
  • Scoping Out The Area For New Smells
  • Hair On Back Raised
  • Determined Sniffing

History of a Dog's Sense of Smell and Hearing


For as long as scientists, researchers, and animal lovers have been studying dogs, their sensory organs have been at the center of the debate. Dogs are fascinating creatures and the more we know, the better. We have learned that dogs have a very acute sense of hearing and an excellent sense of smell, both of which have evolved over time. 

There are numerous reasons why dogs are the way they are today, and we have nature to thank, namely. In the wild, a dog's sense of smell and hearing (even over sight) was incredible important to their ability to catch prey and survive. Just like their sense of taste has evolved over time, so have these other sensory organs. 

Science Behind a Dog's Sense of Hearing and Smell


When it comes to their nose and ears, the first thing to keep in mind is that even though the human brain is an estimated 10 times larger, the part of the brain that controls smell is 40 million times bigger in dogs. This explains a lot, if you ask us! Furthermore, once a dog's hearing develops (they are born deaf), they can hear noises at a much higher frequency than humans - up 45,000 Hertz. 

Understanding the science behind these sensory organs in comparison to our own is helpful when it comes to analyzing their senses. So while a dog's sense of smell inches out their hearing, both are extremely important and play an instrumental role in how they live their life. 

Dogs primarily communicate by smelling, hearing, and then seeing. In fact, it is a common misconception that dogs are colorblind and don't see very well. Numerous studies have shown that dogs see in various shades of blues and yellows, as well as black and white. Although humans can see further distances than dogs, dogs can actually see better at dawn and dusk. Even though we are focusing on smell and hearing today, it doesn't hurt to learn a little more about your dog's other important senses, too. 

Training Your Dog to Smell and Hear


Your dog's sense of smell and hearing come naturally, of course, but there are certain ways you can make them even better. If you have a dog that you would like to train to hunt or detect predators, the first step is to do your research and look for a breed that is inclined towards these behaviors. Bloodhounds, German Shepherds, and Border Collies are great examples of breeds that are highly trainable and have an affinity for this sort of thing. 

While you won't be able to train your dog to smell or hear in general, you can teach them how to detect certain scents. Dogs trained for hunting, for example, start by learning how to sit and stay and then are introduced to whatever scent you desire, such as waterfowl or rabbit. Practice daily and always reinforce good behavior with rewards. If you stick with you, you will soon have a hunting dog on your hands that can pick up on specific scents and smells!

Although a lot of the training you will do with your dog will rely on their sense of smell, hearing is a close second. There are whistles on the market that sound at a very high frequency (much higher than humans can hear) that are great training tools. Always make sure to expose your dog to specific hunting scenarios before taking them out in the field, and make sure they are trained in the presence of guns so the loud noise doesn't shock them.  

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Safety Tips for When Your Dog Smells or Hears Something:

  1. Make sure they are on a leash or in a controlled environment.
  2. Don't let them out of your sight.

By a Chihuahua lover Allie Wall

Published: 05/11/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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