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NOSE-SENSE Pt 1 - Exploring the dog's most important sense

The dog’s nose is probably one its most renowned features for functionality. A dog can survive without sight or hearing but not without the sense of smell. His very survival depends on it!


The olfactory system is highly developed compared to humans. This in turn enables the dog to find and detect various things. He can be trained in such important areas such as: - search and rescue, hazardous chemical detection, bomb and narcotics detection. Thus, saving many lives. However, the dog’s primary reason it has such a good olfactory system is that he can detect relevant environmental information that increases his chances of survival. (Hao Jia, 2014).


Structure & Comparisons

One unique fundamental difference between the dog and human nose is that as humans we use our noses to both inhale air and smell. Whereas, in dogs they have two different air passages. One for breathing and one for smelling. This ensures that dogs can store the smell in their nose even while breathing. Therefore, training a dog is simple when it comes to tracking for instance. (Science ABC, 2015)


However, The Olfactory bulb comprises neural tissues within the dog’s brain. It is located in the forebrain and responsible for processing scents. Studies in 2014 was conducted to discover what occurs on a cellular level of the olfactory system. In 2011 Matt Wachowiak published a journal called Neuron, (Wachowiak, 2011). He states in his abstract:


“Olfaction depends strongly on active sensing due to the fact thatat least in mammalsinhalation of air into the nasal cavity is required for odor detection. This seemingly simple first step in odor sensation profoundly shapes nearly all aspects of olfactory system function, from the distribution of odorant receptors to the functional organization of central processing to the perception of odors.” (Wachowiak, 2011).


Wachowiak confirmed that sensory systems gather and process information about the external world. He was able to deduct that active sensing enables animals to ‘selectively sample’ regions, space and time. This in turn optimizes sensory processing to exact odors etc., such as in tracking. In turn this protects sensory neurons from excessive stimuli. (Wachowiak, 2011)...


more next time when I explore how the dog identifies smell through brain functionality.

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