When it comes to scent detection champions, most people envision hounds and German Shepherds as the top candidates. But what about pugs? Do pugs have a great sense of smell? Recent research study findings may give you a fresh perspective on these little lovable couch potatoes.
Do Pugs Have a Great Sense of Smell?
Yes, pugs turn out to have an excellent sense of smell. According to recent research studies on comparing the olfactory ability of various breeds of dogs, pugs outperform German Shepherds in finding targets in a box full of pine shavings (Hall 2015).
Within each testing group of 10 animals, nine pugs scored above 80% accuracy, whereas only three German Shepherds could score above 80% accuracy.
So what does this mean? Well, it means that your dog will find those crumbs lingering on your sofa cushions. This may be why they lick your couch so much.
What Makes Pug an Excellent Smeller?
Because of pug’s brachycephalic (flat-faced) characteristic and common breathing problems, many researchers assume that they are unlikely to be great at scenting. As a result, little research has been done on exploring pugs’ smelling potential.
However, recent studies suggest that perhaps pugs may develop more olfactory receptors to compensate for their short snouts. Also, their sniffing patterns may be more effective than other breeds (Hall et al. 2016).
What Are Olfactory Receptors?
All mammas have olfactory receptors that are located in a small area in the back of the nasal cavity. They are responsible for helping us smell.
The human nose has about 40 million olfactory receptors, that enable us to detect at least one trillion different odors. Pugs have about two billion, which makes them good smellers.
That’s why it’s hard to hide those treats for your Pug, they can smell them as soon as you pull them out of the closet!
Why Are Pugs Not Used as Scent Detection Dogs?
Although they excel at the task, they lack the physical stamina department. Being bred as the perfect indoor lap dog, pugs are known to overheat easily and suffer from heat strokes.
Due to overbreeding, pugs and other brachycephalic dogs tend to suffer from many of these respiratory-related abnormalities.
Some of the issues they can face are:
- Stenotic nares: Overly narrow or small nostrils that restrict adequate airflow
- Hypoplastic trachea: Abnormally narrow trachea
- Elongated soft palate: Soft tissue inside the mouth extends too far back into the throat and blocks the trachea
- Everted laryngeal saccules: The larynx saccules turn outwards to obstruct airflow pathway
Can I Train My Pug To Be A Detection Dog?
This is a debate that is ongoing by many Pug lovers. Some people say that Pugs can be trained to be a sniffer dog and work for the police.
Even if they have a good sniffer, they still wouldn’t make good detection dogs because they are not built for this purpose.
That being said, I don’t think that Pugs will make good sniffer dogs that can sniff out illegal drugs, currency, contraband and etc.
Why Do Brachycephalic Dogs Exist?
If they suffer from so many respiratory problems, why do they exist in the first place? Historians believe that the original reason for developing brachycephalic dogs is to make dogs better fighters.
With shorter snouts, dogs develop more prominent and robust jaws (Bannasch et al., 2010). Another reason is that these dogs have heads similar to human babies, making them irresistibly adorable.
Today, this breed has become extremely popular, among dog owners. Therefore, breeders everywhere will continue breeding them.
Final Word On A Pug’s Sense Of Smell
While your Pug will never be a Bloodhound, they can detect smells way before you can. They are also instinctively attracted to nasty smells and will eat pretty much anything they find.
If you see your dog eating something in the grass you can’t see, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing there.
References And Further Reading
Bannasch, D., Young, A., Myers, J., Truvé, K., Dickinson, P., Gregg, J., Davis, R., Bongcam-Rudloff, E., Webster, M. T., Lindblad-Toh, K., & Pedersen, N. (2010). Localization of canine brachycephaly using an across breed mapping approach. PloS one, 5(3), e9632.
Hall, N. J., Glenn, K., Smith, D. W., & Wynne, C. D. L. (2015). Performance of Pugs, German Shepherds, and Greyhounds (Canis lupus familiaris) on an odor-discrimination task. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 129(3), 237–246.
Hall, N. J., Smith, D. W., & Wynne, C. D. (2016). Effect of odorant pre-exposure on domestic dogs’ sensitivity on an odorant detection task. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 178, 80–87.
Joerg Fleisher, Heinz Breer, and Joerg Strotmann (2009) Mammalian Olfactory Receptors. Frontiers In Cellular Neuroscience.