There's a saying that dogs actually see the world with their nose, and this isn't entirely incorrect. Our best friends use their sense of smell to get all kinds of information. It is so accurate, that they do all kinds of tasks for us. Sniffer dogs can easily detect drugs submerged in gasoline, and we use search-and-rescue dogs to assist us in disaster areas where they sniff out and locate humans that need rescuing.
Dogs can smell things that are in the ground, too. Many dog lovers who own a yard are very well aware of this, as dogs tend to sniff out something interesting that's underground and then dig it up. Very often, they dig up grubs. But, does this mean they can smell them?
Signs of Dogs Smelling Grubs
Lawn grubs are larvae from several types of insects, and they most commonly appear in late summer and early fall. Adult beetles will lay their eggs during early summer months and soon, the larvae hatches. These small, usually half an inch-long larvae are better known as grubs, and they are typically white with a distinct brown head. While grub infestations can very commonly be identified by dry patches of grass in late summer, your dog might detect them much sooner. Here are some signs your dog will exhibit when they smell grubs:
Raised ears – When searching for grubs, your dog will be alert, often pacing around the garden in search of them.
Sniffing – The first thing your dog will do when searching for grubs is sniff them out. a dog's sense of smell does indeed make it possible to smell grubs, even if they are in the ground.
Digging – Once your dog locates a spot where there are grubs, they will start digging to get to them.
Chewing – When your dog successfully digs up grubs, they will most likely try to eat them. This isn't a cause for concern, as grubs are actually very nutritious, not only to animals but to humans too!
Tail wagging – As your dog is searching for grubs, they will often wag their tails, as this activity is something that stimulates them in a positive way, and awards them a delicious and nutritious snack.
History of Dogs Smelling Grubs
Thanks to their wolf ancestors, dogs have very keen senses that are far superior to our own. Although not part of their traditional diet, in times of famine, the wolf pack would seek to hunt whatever they could find, and this would include protein in the ground in the form of grubs. These senses have helped us, humans, in many instances throughout the centuries. In the past, we most often used dogs for two very distinct tasks—guarding and hunting.
Dogs have an amazing sense of smell compared to our own, so our dog companions can easily sniff out any threat or opportunity before we are aware of it. This made them perfect companions, and they also flourished in this arrangement, as we provided them with shelter and food. As pack animals, they are highly social, which can be seen, even today, with how close of a relationship they develop with their owners.
Today, we treat dogs as part of our family more than we did in the past, and their primary function (for the most part) switched from guardian and hunter to companion animal. Still, their instincts remain and tend to be particularly strong in certain breeds. These are most often various hunting breeds—like the Pointer, Bloodhound, or Foxhound—and they will exhibit hunting behaviors more often than other breeds. This hunting behavior will often also be aimed towards the grubs that might crawl around in your garden, with a dug-up garden being the end result.
Science of Dogs Smelling Grubs
The dog's sense of smell has evolved to track prey over great distances or in hiding and to sniff out any available food from far away. Their ancestors weren't just predators, they were opportune scavengers as well, so having a keen sense of smell that can easily locate potential food sources is definitely a plus.
As the senses evolved to accommodate their hunting and eating habits, their sense of smell became their strongest asset. This is why the saying that dogs see the world with their noses is so accurate. Of course, their sense of smell won't form a picture in their head, but it will relay much more information than our sense of smell ever could.
Training Dogs to Smell Grubs
It will be really hard to train your dog not to go after grub worms, especially if your dog has constant access to your yard. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as your dog can help you locate grub infestations in the garden. If your dog is in the yard often and tends to dig up and eat grubs, it is best to actually get rid of the root of the problem—the grubs must go. This will eliminate several issues: Your dog will not eat them, your dog will stop digging around the yard, and all your plants will be safe and healthy.
Getting rid of grub worms can take some time, but persistence is key here. Also, if you can't keep your dog away from the yard until you get rid of them, it is best to use a remedy that is not toxic. This isn't because of your dog only, but also to make sure that all your plants are safe, and to keep other beneficial insects out of harm's way. Two popular nontoxic solutions include milky spores and beneficial nematodes, so it's best to see which of these two would be the best option for you and your canine friend.
By Charlotte Ratcliffe
Published: 06/08/2018, edited: 04/06/2020