Click here to view CMI's position on climate change.
This article is from
Creation 32(4):56, October 2010

Browse our latest digital issue Subscribe

Super scented

Aerodynamics of odours in a dog’s nose


Photo © iStockphoto/shevvers

What is highly sensitive to scent and can recognize the direction of the faintest odour? A dog’s nose!

Customs officers use dogs to find drugs in luggage. Police use canines to trail an escaped criminal. Emergency workers depend on man’s best friend after a natural disaster to find survivors trapped under rubble.

Dogs’ sensitive sniffing ability is due to the olfactory recess in their nasal cavity. It takes up about half the space inside its nose, sits just behind its eyes, and looks like a tangled mass of twisted airways.

Recently Brent Craven of Pennsylvania State University studied the aerodynamics of the air and odours flowing inside a dog’s nose.1

He and his colleagues put air-monitoring muzzles on seven breeds of dogs, including a Labrador and a Pomeranian, and filmed their sniffing (when tempted with spoons of peanut butter or tuna) on high speed video.

If you are looking for a highly sensitive, directional, rapid response, mobile, internally powered, rechargeable, odour detector, then why not use a sniffer dog?

It turns out that dogs sniff at the same rate at which they pant—five sniffs per second. And the researchers were surprised to discover that dogs can sniff independently with each nostril. With each nostril pulling in a separate odour sample, Craven explained, the dog knows which direction a scent is coming from. The researchers also found that dogs retain the smell in their maze of scent receptors even after they have exhaled.

If you are looking for a highly sensitive, directional, rapid response, mobile, internally powered, rechargeable, odour detector, then why not use a sniffer dog?2 Its nose is another example of the superb design in living things—the organization of all the separate components into an integrated system that works with remarkable precision. Just as the sensitive nose of the humble dog can lead a tracker to his quarry, the amazing design in the living world can put us on the trail toward our remarkable Designer.


  1. Morell, V., The secret of a dog’s sniffer, ScienceNow Daily News, sciencenow.sciencemag.org, 9 December 2009. Return to text.
  2. As indeed many do. See: Sniffer dogs, Creation 26(1):8, 2003; Sniffer dogs still best, Creation 26(4):9, 2004. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Douglas B.
I love dogs.
Emerson W.
This article just takes some work done by an evolutionist and says that it's creation. How did creation science help this evolutionist do his work?
Tas Walker
Hi Emerson, There is nothing about evolution in the careful measurements the researchers did. Do a search on our site for "biomimetics" and you will see how God's design in nature helps scientists and engineers.
David B.
This was a great article. We have only begun to scratch the surface of what K-9's can do. I have worked with dogs for years and currently do explosive detection work with a K-9. I have seen (and can verify) a bloodhound that worked a 6 week old track and found his person. Probably the most amazing to me are the dogs that can detect cancer. What God has created in our 4 legged friends is amazing.
Nick d.
Nice one Tas! Atheists may sniff at the idea of special creation but uniqueness abounds in all of creation that shouts DESIGN, DESIGN and yet more DESIGN!!! And we've only just begun to scratch the surface. How could anyone NOT be amazed and in awe of our King, the Creator Extraodinaire of life and the universe?

Comments are automatically closed 14 days after publication.