6 min read


Can Dogs Remember Your Scent



6 min read


Can Dogs Remember Your Scent


Do you remember Pepe Le Pew? So filled with love and passion but - PEW! - Pepe smelled like a  skunk! Guess what? To dogs, most humans STINK! But unlike "unlucky in love" Pepe Le Pew, the love and affection that you shower on your dog may be associated with your scent, meaning you have a desirable scent to your dog. 

Recent studies have shown that your aroma may make your sniffer-iffic pet feel happy and secure. For a dog, the sense of smell is their Super Power! That sense of smell also makes them a great companion to mankind - and to you!


Signs Your Dog Remembers Your Scent

That wiggling wet nose is going to be your first clue that your dog is using his super sniffer to catch a scent and track it down. When you are near your dog, you are providing him with food, attention, and praise. All the while, your dog is getting a powerful nose full of your scent. Those associations of your scent with all the good things that happen when you are together means your dog will be strongly and emotionally connected to your scent. 

When you walk into the room and you see your dog looking up with a wiggly wet nose - take confidence in knowing he recognized you before he even laid eyes on you. If your dog looks like he is smiling at you, too, he may just be opening his mouth to take in more of your smell that is so emotionally appealing to him.

Did you ever find your dog sleeping on your laundry? Snuggling up to your dirty socks? Settling down when you take him to the veterinarian if you bring along your never-washed, favorite t-shirt? That’s is because your scent is on those items. Your dog is associating his love for you with your personal things that smell like you. We all feel calmer and safer when surrounded by those we love. Your scent makes your dog feel loved and secure!

Your dog's nose may lead him to get very up close and personal. As embarrassing as it may seem, when your dog snuffles your crotch, he is just getting to know you at his sensory level. Your dog's sense of smell is sensitive to pheromones from animals and you. Even your own hormonal body changes will produce scents that are imperceptible to you but interesting to your dog. The crotch sniffing is his way of recognizing you and saying, 'Hello".

Body Language

<p>Here are some obvious signs that your dog remembers your scent:</p>

  • Staring
  • Alert
  • Head Tilting

Other Signs

Below are some other signs that your pooch knows its you, just by your smell!

  • Making A "Smiling" Face
  • Being Close To You When You Enter A Room
  • Gravitating Towards Items That Have Your Scent On Them
  • Putting Their Nose Near Your Crotch

History of Dogs Remembering Humans by Scent


Your dog's sense of smell has evolved to give them vital information for their survival. Your dog is a carnivore. Modern dogs evolved from a line of carnivorous mammals called "canids," after the characteristic shape of their teeth. Around 15,000 years ago, scientists believe that the evolution of dogs changed when hunter-gatherers took wolf pups and raised them as their companions for hunting and protection. 

As dogs have lived with man, they have become domesticated to roles that humans require of them. The dogs evolved and were bred to fulfil those functions - one of which is connected to those skills that rely on scent. Some believe that the domestication of dogs has made them social and attuned to human behavior, but perhaps less intelligent when it comes to survival and reliance on instinct.

As dogs have been bred over the years to serve human needs, so has their sense of smell evolved and become associated with different breeds. For example, hunting and sporting dogs have are super-sniffers. Hounds are among the dogs known for their talent for scent detection.

The Bloodhound, Basset and Beagle are the top three for their scent detection skills. Those cute little toy dogs with short snouts seem to have less scent detection ability. but remember, that is all relative. A dog still has a much stronger ability to detect scent than a human. Dogs may also vary greatly in personality and experience, both of which can impact their scent detections skills.

Dogs learn to associate the human's scent with positive experiences. That association makes for a strong emotional bond, as your smell becomes a pleasant aromatic for him. Research has shown that dogs have strong and favorable reactions to their owner's scent. They are able to distinguish their owner's scent from the smell of other people. 

What is remarkable is that, to dogs, people really do stink. The human armpit is full of odors as are the pheromones that we emit. But your positive associations and the dog's disposition to be socialized makes the pairing of your smell with good things an overwhelmingly secure experience for your pet.

Science of Dogs Remembering People's Scent


The dog's sense of smell is 10,000 to 10,000,000 times more powerful than the human's sense of smell. Scientists at the Florida State University explained the power of the dog's sense of smell, "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 3,000 miles away and still see as well."

Unlike our human noses, the dog is taking in smells from each nostril, separately. This means your dog can breathe in 3-D. This gives the dog the ability to create a profile of his world based in smell! 

The dog's nose is a remarkable sensory organ, as it serves two functions - respiration and scent. When your dog exhales, the scent remains in his sensory organs - prolonging the dog's experience of the smell. Dogs have a special olfactory organ that humans do not have, the vomeronasal organ, also known as Jacobson's organ. Located in the bottom of a dog's nasal passage, Jacobson's organ picks up pheromones, the chemicals unique to each animal species that advertise mating readiness. 

Scientists have also conducted studies as to the dog's ability to remember your scent, as his owner, with a special bond. One study at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, tested the emotional reactions of dogs when exposed to the scent of their owner in comparison to that of others. 

The study collected brain waves of twelve different breeds of dogs while they were exposed to scent samples. The dogs' responses were strongest for scents of familiar humans followed by scents of familiar animals. That is amazing! The study found that dog breeds known for having a strong sense of smell had greater reactions than dogs with shorter snouts. 

The study clearly demonstrated that dogs have a stronger emotional reaction to humans, most likely due to the rewards that are associated with food, praise, affection, play and safety that is provided within the human to dog bond.

Training Your Dog to Remember You by Scent


Capitalizing on your dog's natural olfactory super-power can bring a lot of fun to you and your pet! Obedience trainers work with owners to use those instincts to focus your dog's attention on your commands and signals. 

With repetition, the smell of a tiny treat becomes associated with your commands to stay, sit, heel, and come as well as the petting and praise you use as rewards for paying attention. When you say, "Good Dog!", your dog is also taking in scents of you and treats, which becomes encoded in your dog's brain as positive. 

Owners of sporting dogs use scent work to develop their relationship with the dog and teach the dog how to be their team-mate when hunting. The training begins by getting basic commands in place, then progresses to finding things other than food to associate with reward - a toy for example and, always, praise. Then taking the dog to a distraction-free space, you can start using exercises, or games to train your dog to discriminate scents and to detect the scents. 

According to the American Kennel Club, you may want to start with a game called, "Which One?". In this game, you begin by having something in each hand. Hold your hand close to the dogs face, and when your dog selects the hand with the scent you want him to detect, you reward the dog. 

The exercises in scent discrimination then become expanded to versions of "shell games" in which the scent to be detected is again hidden but moved among other scents. As your dog improves in his detection skills, the exercises expand to larger environments, until you are able to unleash in the field as a team on the hunt. 

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By a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lover Pat Drake

Published: 01/23/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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