Written by Michael Pumilia
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A dog’s nose is the primary sense it has. From the moment of birth, the nose is active and working to build a library of scents. The first order of business is to find food. So the nose works to find its mother’s milk source. Buried in the puppy’s brain is an inherited registry of what milk should smell like. Then its nose identifies the precise smell of its mother’s milk and its mother’s body scent. Later it will identify each of the littermates around it. The puppy’s eyes and ears are still closed and will not open for several days. Within hours each puppy in the litter will determine how to find a favorite teat on the mother and which other puppies it likes to snuggle with. All this is done in a dark world that is navigated by scents alone. Later the puppy will see what it has smelled and will hear the sounds of everything around it. The puppy’s life has really started.
Let’s refer to my Michael’s Two Rules of Tracking and apply Rule 2: Focus Near; Focus Far. To understand how a dog uses its nose to track, we must Focus Near and explore the parts of the nose and see how they work. Once you know how the dog’s nose really works, then you will understand Rule 1: The Dog Knows What It’s Doing. I like to refer to Cesar Milan (See www.cesarsway.com) and his Natural Dog Law 4: A dog's senses form his reality. It says, “Humans and dogs experience the world through a very different combination of senses. To most humans, sight is the most important sense, followed by touch, sound, and smell. For dogs, the order is smell, sight, sound, and then touch, with a dog's sense of smell being by far the most important. The easy way to remember it is: Nose, eyes, ears, in that order.”
A dog’s nose is an amazing piece of engineering work by Nature. Its capabilities are tens of thousands of times more precise than a human’s. The structure of the dog’s nose is different from us too. It’s also more different than you might think. “The ability of dogs to detect and identify odors is truly amazing. They are able to perform these tasks due to the specialized construction of their noses. Scientists have estimated that a dog's nose has about 220 million mucus-coated olfactory receptors, roughly 40 times as many as humans. (Derr 2002) Nerve cells in the epithelium, sensitive tissue lining the nasal cavity, are capable of recognizing and responding to an extraordinarily large repertoire of stimuli - some 10,000 chemical odors. They accomplish this feat, at least in part, with numerous mucus-coated fibers, which contain the receptor proteins. Those receptors recognize different chemicals and transmit that information to the brain, which perceives the chemicals as an odor. The brain is essentially saying something like, “I'm seeing activity in positions 1, 15, and 54 of the olfactory bulb, which correspond to odorant receptors 1, 15, and 54, so that must be jasmine.” Most odors consist of mixtures of odorant molecules. Therefore, other odors would be identified by different combinations.” (reference 1) See figure 4-1 to get a basic idea of what this means.
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