4 min read


Can Dogs Taste What They Smell?



4 min read


Can Dogs Taste What They Smell?


Have you ever walked into your kitchen to the sweet smell of fresh cookies? You can almost taste them without even putting them in your mouth. The second the cookies do hit your mouth is an amazing experience all on its own. Humans' senses of smell and taste are what makes food such an amazing thing. So, as you serve your pup their food, do they have the same feelings? 

We know dogs have a very strong sense of smell, and they are constantly begging for what's on your plate. So, they must have the same ability to smell what they taste too, right? Maybe not. Research has shown that dogs' sense of taste is not nearly as good as a human's.


Signs Your Dog Smells or Wants Something

If your pooch is smelling something they like, they definitely won't hide it! In fact, you'll notice that they might even smell things before you since they have a far superior sense of smell. The first things you'll probably notice are alertness and sniffing. Your pup might be trying to concentrate on what they're smelling! They also might put their ears up to see if there is a sound associated with the smell. If they like the smell, they might also wag their tail, or if they don’t like it, they might bark.

If your pooch wants something you're eating, that's an entirely different ball game. As every dog owner knows, dogs love their food. In fact, they love anyone's food - anyone who is willing to share, that is. If you sit down for dinner or even if you’re simply just having a snack on the couch, your pooch will probably join you... very quickly. They'll probably not take their eyes off you, or the food you're holding. 

Then to make you feel more awkward, they'll do things like watch you with puppy-dog eyes or maybe even whimper or drool at the table. Some dogs start jumping up and down, doing tricks, or simply sit silently with their face in your lap - just to let you know they haven't gone anywhere. Most dogs do seem to beg at the table, though this behavior can be curbed with training.

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice if your dog smells something:

  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Wag Tail
  • Sniffing
  • Ears Up

Other Signs

Here are some signs you might notice if your dog wants some of your food:

  • Giving Puppy-Dog Eyes
  • Whimpering
  • Drooling
  • Jumping
  • Doing Tricks
  • Putting Their Face In Your Lap

History of Dogs Tasting and Smelling


As far as the history of dogs and their ability to taste and smell goes, they've probably been that way for as long as there have been dogs. Being able to smell and taste are very important senses to have when trying to stay alive. 

Dogs have traditionally been omnivores. According to the American Kennel Club, this is probably because most of their ancestors ate tons of meat, but they probably supplemented with fruits and other plants. Because of all of the meat they consume, dogs actually don't like salt as much as humans and other animals! They get so much of it from meat, they just don't need or want it as much. 

They love sweet things, though, probably because of their love of fruit and other sweet items found in nature.

Science Behind Dogs Tasting and Smelling


Fun fact - humans actually have a keener sense of taste than dogs! It's hard to believe, but it's true. According to the American Kennel Club, your dog only has around 1,700 tastebuds whereas you probably have closer to 9,000! That's staggering! On the other side of it, however, dogs can sniff things out much better than humans with their 220 million olfactory receptors compared to a human's 5 million. 

The AKC does also mention that dogs are able to taste the same four basic classifications humans can - sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. Interestingly, dogs and other animals have special taste buds to taste water too, and this trait is more sensitive after they eat something sweet or salty. This may be historically significant as an evolutionary trait. The theory behind it is that animals might need more water after eating certain kinds of food so they don't get dehydrated.

With all of this being said, dogs actually do taste their food through their sense of smell, according to the AKC. This is probably because dogs can smell much better than they can taste, and they have a special organ for it called the Jacobson Organ. It’s mainly used by puppies to smell their mother’s milk as well as by adult dogs to smell pheromones in other animals.

Training Your Dog Not to Beg


So, are you interested in teaching your pooch not to beg at the table? Human food can be really bad for dogs. So, it's important to be careful what you feed them, but it can be so, so hard to turn them down! One of the simplest ways to move your dog away from begging is to simply put them in their crate or outside in your backyard while you're having meals. That way, they don't beg, and you don't have to worry that they are eating something that isn't good for them.

If putting them in another room or outside isn't an option, Cesar Millan has a few tips for training your dog not to beg at the table. It seems that the main key is consistency. If you don't want your pup to beg at the table, don't ever give them food from the table. It's that simple. Also, don't deviate from that behavior and make sure family members aren't sneaking your pup food, either. 

It's also important to ignore the dog's behavior if they start begging. Attention is a reward, so it's important to let them know that you won't be paying attention to their begging. It's also crucial to know that your pup won't change after 2-3 meals of unsuccessful begging. It'll probably take some time to get them to stop the bad behavior.

So, can a dog smell and taste at the same time? Yes, and it doesn't look like they are slowing down to...errr.... smell the dog food, either.

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By Katie Anderson

Published: 06/05/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

Wag! Specialist
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