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How Far Can A Husky Smell? (Husky Sense of Smell Explained)

How Far Can A Husky Smell?
How far can a husky smell?

Huskies can detect scents from 6 to 12 miles away (~10 to 20km)

Siberian Huskies have a good sense of smell, and like other dogs, their sense of smell is considerably more powerful than ours, but as a Husky owner, have you ever wondered how far can a husky smell?

The distance a Husky can smell depends on various elements like the type of odor, wind speed, weather, other odors in the area, and so on. Although Huskies have a better sense of smell than humans, their sense of smell is not among the best in the dog world.

If you love Huskies and want to learn more about their extraordinary sense of smell, you’ve come to the perfect place. Continue reading to learn everything there is to know about the Husky’s sense of smell and how a dog’s sense of smell works in general from our small animal veterinarian.

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Siberian Husky sense of smell 

Siberian Huskies have a decent sense of smell, probably because they used to live in the great open regions with tribes who used them as sled dogs. Because Siberian Huskies are classed as a working dog breed and were primarily employed to pull sleds, their sense of smell is not as acute as that of a tracking or hunting dog such as Basset Hounds, German Pointers, Beagles, etc.

Though their sense of smell is far superior to that of humans, as they have more than 125 million olfactory receptors (smell sensing receptors) in their noses spread over an area roughly the size of a handkerchief, compared to about 6 million in our noses spread over an area roughly the size of a post stamp. 

Because Huskies have so many scent receptors in their nose, the part of their brain that controls their sense of smell is 40 times larger than in humans.

According to the University of Adelaide, Siberian Huskies can detect scents from up to 12 miles away (~20km).

Perhaps this is one reason why Huskies run away? 🧐 Or perhaps why they love going for a walkies! Just make sure you know how to train your Husky to walk on a leash!

Anyway, their ability to detect smells is limited by a number of elements such as the type of smell, winding speed, terrain, weather, and a few others.

Siberian Husky Sense Of Smell
Taking in those nice smells! 🌿 Image from @huskyivar

How a dog’s sense of smell actually works

Dogs have moveable nostrils, which allow them to precisely detect the direction of the odor. A dog’s order-sensing mechanism, unlike ours, is unaffected by regular breathing. A dog will collect scent particles in its nose in bursts of 3 to 7 sniffs and is not required to continuously fill its lungs with air.

Dogs can collect scent molecules due to a bony structure in their nose that humans do not have. This bony feature forms a tiny pocket in the nasal passage where smell molecules become trapped and are not washed away by the air flowing in and out when the dog breathes normally. 

When a dog sniffs several times, the concentration of scent molecules trapped in its nose increases, allowing the dog to identify even the most subtle odor.

Vomeronasal organ (VNO) or Jacobson’s organ in dogs 

Because of a particular olfactory organ in their nose, dogs have a keen sense of smell. This olfactory organ is known as the vomeronasal organ (VNO) or Jacobson’s organ. Humans have this organ as well, although it is not as sensitive as it is in dogs and other animals such as equines. 

This olfactory organ aids dogs in detecting chemical signals. This organ lets dogs pick up scents that other animals cannot pick up because the nerves originating from it are directly connected to the brain.

The primary purpose of Jacobson’s organ is to assist dogs in sniffing out pheromones (chemical signals or odors released by an individual that can be detected or smelled by an individual of the same species). e.g. Male Huskies can determine when a female Husky goes into heat and is ready for mating using this organ because female dogs generate certain pheromones from their bodies when they are in heat.

How A Dogs Sense Of Smell Actually Works
Can you smell it?! It’s sooooo good! 🍗 Image from @huskygram02

Jacobson’s organ also aids dogs in recognizing other dogs, so much so that if a puppy is placed between two nursing female dogs, it can identify which one is its mother only by sniffing pheromones. 

Puppies are blind when they are born, therefore this organ enables them to recognize their mother’s nipples by sniffing so they may suckle on milk. A puppy’s nose can detect temperature and warmth, which is why it can find its mother if they are separated from her.

Can dogs smell fear or joy?

Yes, dogs can detect emotions such as happiness, anger and sadness with the help of their sense of smell. This is due to the fact that dogs can smell hormones emitted by the body as well as some human pheromones.

When humans are excited or afraid, their bodies initiate a “fight-or-flight” response, which is triggered by the release of a hormone known as Adrenaline Hormone or Epinephrine. This hormone also causes humans to sweat and emit pheromones. Dogs and some other animals, such as horses, can sense these hormones and chemical changes in a human’s body, allowing them to detect your emotions.

A recent study revealed that dogs (at least Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers) can detect and respond to human emotions.

Some studies also demonstrate that when a human is angry, a dog’s heartbeat and breathing rate rise, proving that dogs can perceive whether a human is angry or happy, though more research is needed in this area.

Can Huskies Smell Emotions?
I smell love in the air! ❤️ Image from @from_the_rescue_to_the_rescue

Can Huskies smell cancer? 

There is currently no research on whether Huskies can specifically smell cancer or not, but dogs can generally smell cancer and can tell whether a human is sick or healthy based on their sense of smell.

The concept of dogs sensing cancer was initially proposed in 1989 when a lady stated that her dog would repeatedly sniff and try to bite a mole on her body that turned out to be a malignant melanoma.

Can Huskies Smell Cancer?
No cancer in here, just lots of food! 🤤 Image from @jacksonthehuskyy

According to research, tumors release volatile organic chemicals that are released in a person’s urine, exhaled breath, and sweat depending on the type of cancer he/she has. Dogs can be trained to recognize some types of cancer, according to research. 

This study proved that sniffer dogs can accurately distinguish the urine sample of cancer patients to healthy individuals.

Dogs have also been shown to detect lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and colorectal cancer by sniffing a patient’s breath samples.

Can Huskies smell bombs and drugs? 

Huskies have a good sense of smell and could detect bombs and drugs, however, they are rarely used as bomb-detecting dogs or in K9 units. They are not highly disciplined dogs, despite having a good sense of smell. 

To be recruited in K9 units as a drug and bomb detection dog, a dog must be highly disciplined and must follow every single command of its instructor, which Huskies are not very good at. 😂

This is why German Shepherds are most commonly recruited as bomb and drug detection dogs because they are highly disciplined and have a superior sense of smell to Huskies.

Further reading: Can a husky be a police dog?

Which dog breed has the best sense of smell? 

In general, dogs in the Hound family have the best sense of smell because they possess the most odor-sensing receptors in their nose, approximately 300 million.

Bloodhounds have the best sense of smell in the dog world, followed by Basset Hounds. 

Bloodhounds can detect the tiniest scent in the air as well as follow a scent trail on the ground. The Bloodhound’s sense of smell is so acute that it is accepted as reliable evidence in court. Hound dogs can sniff around 40 feet underground and can detect the odor of human fingerprints. 

Are Huskies good tracking dogs?

No, Huskies aren’t considered good tracking dogs because they weren’t bred for it. Instead they were bred as working dogs.

Instead there are dog breeds that are specifically bred for tracking and have a far greater sense of smell than a Siberian Husky, such as a Bloodhound. 

Are Huskies Good Tracking Dogs?
Just tracking down some friends! Image from @adventures_withjoey

Which is the best tracking dog? 

Bloodhounds are the best tracking dogs in the world. Since ancient times, they have been used to track people, particularly during the medieval eras. They have a big head with more brain tissue to comprehend their sense of smell. 

They have long snouts and large nostrils, which aid in the accumulation of scent particles from the ground. Bloodhounds have been used to find missing individuals and criminals.

Are Huskies good hunting dogs?

Huskies, despite their keen sense of smell, are not considered good hunting dogs.

Are Huskies Good Hunting Dogs?
I’m gonna get you mouse! 😯 Image from @dogtor_steele

Other dogs, such as German Pointers, Basset Hounds, and a few others, have considerably superior sense of smell than a Husky and have been bred for generations to track and hunt animals.

Siberian Huskies on the other hand are bred as working dogs, therefore would struggle to compete with such dog breeds.

While Huskies might not be chosen for hunting, they can certainly hunt. This one reason why Huskies dig holes in your backyard! 😂

Can Huskies find their way back home by their sense of smell? 

Huskies can usually find their way back home by following the scent trail.

If a Husky gets lost in the woods, it will easily find its way back to its owners if the scent trail is not wiped away by strong winds or rain. Huskies have a good memory as well as a good sense of smell, which helps them find their way back home.

Do dogs use their nose for social interactions? 

A dog’s nose is used for more than just sniffing out food; it also assists them in social interactions with other dogs, which is why when two dogs meet, the majority of the time they will smell each other’s rear ends, especially if they are meeting for the first time. 

A dog’s rear end contains anal glands, which produce a distinct odor that is unique to each dog and serves as a form of an identity marker for other dogs to recognize.

Their sense of smell helps them identify whether the other dog is aggressive, what gender it is, how healthy it is, and whether they have met previously. Simply smelling each other can establish who is more dominant. 

A dog’s nose also helps it establish its territory, which is why dogs pee in different places. Dogs can detect the odor of any invader dog that has entered their territory.

Do Dogs Use Their Nose For Social Interactions
Just saying hello! 😂 Image from @maxwelldacoolest

Can Huskies tell the gender of a person with their sense of smell? 

There is no research on whether a Husky can determine if a person is male or female solely by sniffing them, but dogs in general can tell if a person is male or female just by smelling them. 

Males often have a higher ratio of testosterone hormone in their bodies, which gives males a manly odor that dogs can detect. Similarly, they can detect the estrogen hormone, which is predominant in females. 

Final Thoughts About How Far Huskies Can Smell

Siberian Huskies have a good sense of smell and can detect scents from a distance of 6 to 12 miles away. Though their sense of smell is inferior to that of a Bloodhound, Basset Hound, or German Pointer since these dog breeds have up to 300 million odor-sensing receptors in their nose. This is why Siberian Huskies do not make good tracking or hunting dogs. 

A dog’s nose is so sensitive that it can detect chemicals at one part per trillion concentrations. It’s astonishing that some dogs can detect a single drop of liquid in 20 Olympic-size swimming pools. Dogs can also detect human emotions and can even detect diseases such as cancer due to their great sense of smell.

What do you think your Husky can smell from the backyard?

Let us know in the comments below.

Photo of author
Dr. Abdul Basit Javed

Dr. Abdul Basit Javed (DVM, RVMP) is a Small Animal Veterinarian that completed his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at Riphah College of Veterinary Sciences.

He has years of experience working with a variety of pets, including exotics. He has a passion for helping animals and takes great pride in providing quality care. To learn more, visit the team section of the about page.

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