The idea of doggos being able to sniff out DNA isn't as far-fetched as it sounds, in fact, to some degree, it's true. No, your dog probably can't smell down to the molecular level and get the precise scent of your DNA, but your dog can recognize you in ways no one else could, based on scent alone.
Your body, your cells - all your internal and external parts - have a unique scent, and your dog can smell every bit of it. Think of it this way, your dog can sniff out all the ingredients, part-by-part, of your favorite dish, down to the very flour that constructs the pasta you're making. So, no, your dog can't necessarily smell your DNA, but they can smell your unique, part-by-part smells that make up your body, and they can recognize it from miles away.
Check out our guide below to get a better idea of how your dog can sniff out your scent, what makes their noses so powerful, and how you can train your dog to capitalize on their sniffing abilities.
Signs Your Dog Can Determine Your Unique Smell
Scientists have determined, through dog-related tests, that even people with identical DNA (twins, for example) have their own unique, microscopically-different smells. The beautiful thing? Your dog can tell that difference, and you apart from someone with identical DNA, even when a DNA test cant - but more on that later.
There are certain ways your dog will let you know that they recognize your particular scent above other smells, and they'll do so in some pretty odd ways. Your dog will likely form strong, emotional attachments to your objects and will obsessively sniff or lick them. Your dog will also probably know when you're coming home before you even get to the driveway just based off your unique smell! Expect howling, barking, jumping up, and general excitement when you walk through the door.
- Jumping up
- Wag tail
- Tail up
- Nose wrinkled
- Showing special attention to one of your personal items
- Obsessive licking and sniffing of your objects
- Howling or barking before you get into the house
- Staying by your side
The History of Dogs Smelling DNA
In the experiment, dogs sniffed samples from sets of both identical and fraternal twins between the ages of 5 and 13, as well as samples from unrelated people as well. In each trial, the dogs were able to match the twins' scents and distinguish them from one another, suggesting that even people with identical genes have their own unique scent.
While your dog might not be able to smell your particular, molecular DNA scent, they are able to determine the differences in people that even DNA tests cannot.
The Science Behind DNA Sniffing
Every part of your body - your internal organs, your blood, your skin - give off certain scents. While you might not be able to smell some of these things (like your organs, for example, that would be weird), your dog definitely can. Each person gives off their own unique pheromone molecules that are detected by dogs' olfactory senses.
And while your dog is smelling a million miles a minute, he or she is equipped with a sensory-leading brain that doesn't mix up all the other odor molecules in the air.
Training Your Dog to Recognize Specific Smells
We recommend enrolling your pup in a specialized training program if you're wanting your dog to sniff out particular things like illnesses and illegal substances, because those trainers will have legal access to things like cancer tissues, certain strains of illness, and drugs.
If you're looking to train your pup to look for something a bit less intense, though, like finding things that smell like you, for example, you can certainly take care of this on your own. The trick with dogs is more than just introducing the scent to them.
First, you'll need to introduce the idea of play as a reward. Make sure you're consistently playing with your dog's favorite toy as an act of reward to get your dog accustomed to understanding that playing with that toy is the reward for doing something correctly.
Next, make sure the toy smells like, or is filled with, the specific scent you want your dog to hunt down. Make sure your dog is well acquainted with this scent, then practice hiding the toy from your dog. When they find the toy, reward them with play time. Repeat this process until your dog understands that they're seeking out that particular scent and that when they do, they'll get the reward they want.
How to React if Your Dog Knows Your Smell:
Don't punish your dog for forming strong attachments to things that smell like you.
Allow your dog to sniff and lick things that smell like you.
Consider training your pup to not bark or alert the neighbors when you arrive home and they smell you from the driveway.