Are there certain smells or odors a dog can’t detect?

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Dogs have an incredible sense of smell due to their leathery, wet noses and millions of olfactory cells. Dogs collect and analyze scents as a way of orienting themselves every day, especially when meeting other dogs or dealing with unusual or stressful situations. Smelling is a primal instinct for dogs, who can smell up to 50 times better than humans.

Because of this, dogs are often used for precise military and police operations that involving tracking or picking up scents such as chemicals, blood or drugs. While a human has little to no chance of smelling out certain scents, a dog can easily pick up a trace of a scent that is even one or two parts out of a billion. There are no known odors that a dog can’t detect, however, there may be some smells that dogs are more sensitive to than others. Certain scents may act to dominate a dog’s senses and block out other scents.

Dogs can sniff scant amounts of scent in the air, or buried deep underground. Some strong scents, like gasoline or rubber may be able to temporarily block a scent from a dog’s nose, but it’s unlikely to completely mask the scent once a dog is on track to find it. An item would have to possess no scent at all in order to not be picked up by a dog.

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