Can Dogs Remember Smells?

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Introduction

Studies have been done over the years in order to fully understand our canine companions. These studies have been able to test their ability to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. 

It has been found that dogs have much better hearing abilities than we do and they also have a better sense of smell. They do not use their vision as much as we do because it is not as useful to them as their other senses are. While they may have better smelling abilities than us, what you may be wondering is if your pup can remember a scent.

Signs Your Dog is Actually Remembering a Scent

So realistically, there is really only one important sign that you will need to look out for when it comes to your dog remembering scents. The obvious answer is that they will begin to sniff. Dogs use their noses more than almost any other part of their body because it is their way of familiarizing themselves with whatever it is they are around them. However, we are taking a look at whether or not they are actually remembering this scent or not, not just their ability to sniff things. 

Firstly, you will notice that they are indeed sniffing around. If you have brought someone over who may not have been around for a little while, there is a high chance that your pupper is going to be all over them, sniffing like crazy! 

Once the sniffing is done, you will want to keep an eye open for a few other signs as well, one sign being that they will tilt their head. They may do this because they have recognized the person's scent and they are trying to place where it came from. 

After this, the pup may become excited and start jumping and wagging their tail. This is a good indicator that they are indeed remembering their old pal. While they may not remember all of the details about them, they will have been able to remember whether or not the scent was associated with something good or bad. 

Body Language

To see if your pooch remembers a scent, watch for:

  • Head tilting
  • Jumping up
  • Wag tail
  • Sniffing

Other Signs

Other signs your pup remembers a scent include:

  • Reacting adversely to a smell with a bad memory
  • Active fearful
  • Getting excited

The History of Dogs Remembering Scents

There have been plenty of studies done through history on dogs regarding their different senses. These studies have helped us humans understand our four-legged friends much better than we ever did before. When it comes to dogs remembering scents, there are some studies that show they are definitely able to remember certain smells and distinguish whether or not that smell means good or bad. 

It has been said by some owners that specific breeds, namely Bloodhounds, have the best noses, but since they are used mostly to search for things, once that item is found, they will quickly move onto the next object and forget about the previous scent. 

Another thing to note is that dogs do not always have the best memories. If something did not have a huge impact on them, chances are that they will forget that instance and move on. Their best chance at remembering anything is to use their sense of smell. It is hard to say exactly when we figured out the details of a dogs sense of smell, but we have learned plenty about them throughout the years.

The Science of Dogs Remembering Smells

It has been noted that since the 1950's, scientists have known about a dog's ability to smell things much better than other species, especially humans. Scientists learned that dogs were sniffing at 5 times per second when samples were put in front of them. This is the same rate at which a dog normally pants, but instead, their panting was swapped out for sniffing. 

Humans have also learned that dogs can hunt down smells. If you give a trained dog a t-shirt, they will sniff it and then go on to search for that scent elsewhere. They are able to remember certain smells because of their amazing noses.

Training Your Dog with Scents

When training a pup, people do not normally use scent-training as their first choice. A lot of people have started to use it in case of emergencies or just because it is an interesting talent. Scent-training may be difficult to do, since you are working with different smells. A lot of reports indicate that starting early in the morning and outdoors if possible will be your best bet. 

Grab some treats and your pup and head outdoors to start your training session. This will only work if it is only you and your pup around. If anyone else is around to interfere, it will automatically be a bust. You will need to make sure there are no distractions for your dog. 

Once you are in an isolated area, have your dog lay down. Grab some treats and crush them up. You are going to drop some crumbs every few feet or so and mix it into the ground. What this will do is mix the scent of the ground with the treat, making it harder for your pup to follow the trail you have created. 

Once you have set up the trail for your pup to follow, set an object at the very end for them to "find." This will allow them to feel accomplished once they have finished following your trail. You will want to use encouraging commands, such as "find the toy," or "go get it." This will allow them to associate your word usage with following the trail. 

If they bring you the correct item, you can praise them and if you feel they are enjoying their time, you can create more trails for them to sniff out. Training your dog to follow trails and listen to commands will help them remember the scents later on in case they are needed. 

Safety Tips for Scent Training:

  • If you notice your pup in distress after they have smelled something, immediately take them away from the source. They may associate the scent with something bad.
  • Since a dog has such a strong nose, don't ever use any exceptionally strong fragrances in your home. Your dog will be confused and will be unable to use one of their top senses because of it.