Can Dogs Smell Other Dogs' Ashes?

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Any dog owner fears losing their dog or their beloved pet passing away. When we do lose them, cremation is the preferred method to handle the body these days. This means that as an owner, you will receive your pet’s ashes after the cremation has taken place. This then leads us to our question: are dogs able to smell another dogs’ ashes

Dogs do have an astounding sense of smell, and therefore, it should come as no surprise to us if a dog was able to smell something that we can’t, such as another dog's ashes. We will now take a further look into this.

Introduction of Can Dogs Smell Other Dogs' Ashes?

Sign That Dogs Smell Other Dogs' Ashes

For humans, ashes have no smell and we certainly can’t distinguish between animal or human ashes in any way. Once a body has been reduced to ash, any scents that the body carried previously will have disappeared after the cremation has taken place. 

That said, our sense of smell is nothing compared to that of a dog. There is some evidence that suggests that not only can dogs smell ashes, but they may also be able to differentiate between human and animal ashes, specifically a dog’s ashes.

There are a number of signs that you can look out for if you think your dog has been able to sniff out another dog's ashes. This could be from a previous pet of yours that has passed away or at someone else's' house. 

- Sniffing intently at the object (usually an urn or decorative container) 

- Exhaling or panting, accompanied by a wagging tail

- Whining or sitting subdued near the object. Particularly if it is a recognizable scent

It's important to note here that the concentration of the ashes will depend on whether your dog will be able to smell them or not. For example, it is highly unlikely a dog will be able to smell another dog's ashes that have been sprinkled or spread on the ground, because the scent is distributed and dissipates quickly. So, this will tend to only apply to ashes that are held and stored e.g. in urns. 

Body Language

Some cues your dog will give off if they smell another dog's ashes are:
  • Whining
  • Wag tail
  • Sniffing

Other Signs

More signs that your dog smells another dog's ashes include:
  • Sitting calmly near them
  • Spending longer than usual sniffing them

History Behind Dogs Smelling Other Dogs’ Ashes

History of Can Dogs Smell Other Dogs' Ashes?

Historically, dogs have always been very apt at detecting scents. As humans, we regard dogs as the masters of scent detection. However, it has to be said that in the past, a dog’s detection skills would have been better than they are today, as dogs have now become more domesticated. These senses are, therefore, not as strong as they once were.

As we know, a dog makes sense of the world around them through their nose. When a dog takes a breath, the air goes through two different paths. Some of the air goes to their lungs while the rest of it manages to reach the receptors linked to their sense of smell.

Unlike humans, a dog is able to move each nostril separately to each other, and therefore, they can get a better hold of a scent. Although a dog’s sense of smell is its number one sense, their eyesight lets them down a bit, so their ability to locate another dog’s ashes will be done by their sense of smell and not through using their eyesight.  

Historically, dogs wouldn't have a need for smelling ashes because they weren't cremated naturally. Instead, this has become a more modern practice for pet lovers to retain their pet. 

Science Behind Dogs Smelling Other Dogs’ Ashes

Science of Can Dogs Smell Other Dogs' Ashes?

We have mentioned the fact that dogs are able to move each nostril individually. As dogs have such a strong sense of smell, they are able to differentiate and determine the world in which they live in through their nose. They may not necessarily know that they are sniffing out another dog’s ashes, but they will be able to understand that these ashes are different from other scents.

A dog is also able to take on information from the reaction of their owner, as they can pick up on human emotion and body language. Some breeds of dogs will be able to do this more easily than others, such as Bloodhounds, who are notorious for their amazing sense of smell. 

That said, the majority of dogs are able to sniff out scents as well. Although no scientific studies have been performed on dogs smelling other dog's ashes, we know that many breeds are used for detecting bodies at crime scenes or after fires in the wreckage. This means there is some indication they can smell the scent from ashes alone. 

Training a Dog to Smell Other Dogs’ Ashes

Training of Can Dogs Smell Other Dogs' Ashes?
You may not necessarily want to train your dog to smell another dog’s ashes, but previous training that you may have given your dog in locating scents may help them naturally do this. 

In general, a reminder of how to train a dog to detect any scent can be found below:

  • Remove your dog from the room where training will take place.

  • Place the scent that you want your dog to detect in the training room.

  • Allow the dog back into the training room and watch them try to locate the scent.

  • Once the dog has located the scent, make sure that you praise the dog and reward your dog with a treat.

  • Repeat this process a number of times so that the dog knows that they are rewarded each time they locate the scent.

Additionally, there are games that you can play with your dog in order to improve your dog’s scent detection as well as for fun!

1. Locate the food

As mentioned above, getting your dog to locate food is a great way of entertaining your pet, as well as honing in on their smelling abilities. Begin by placing food in full view and then move on to hiding this food in more obscure places until your dog can sniff it out. Eventually, you will see your dog sniffing out the food and no longer searching for it.

2. Scent Trail 

Dogs can not only sniff out food, they can also smell things such as essential oils.

  • Place a few drops of essential oil onto a toy and play fetch with your dog.

  • On the following day, hide the scented toy and place small pieces of paper scented with oil leading to the scented toy, like a trail.

  • Ask your dog to find the scented trail. Usually, a dog will scent out the pieces of paper and follow the trail.

  • Once your dog locates the scented toy, reward your dog.

  • Eventually, remove the pieces of scented paper until your dog can locate the scented toy by themself.

How to React to Your Dog Smelling Other Dog's Ashes:

  • If the ashes are of someone they once knew, it can be confusing and worrying for your dog. Make sure to give them plenty of reassurance and attention to avoid disruptive or difficult behavior and make things easier for them.
  • If your dog is taking an interest in ashes at another person's house, apologize and explain the situation. If you're able, move the urn or ashes to ensure your dog doesn't jump up and knock them over.