Sniff. A small puff of dust…


Few have looked closely at exactly what happens in a sniff. But recently some researchers have used a specialized photographic method that shows air flow in order to detect when, and how, dogs are sniffing… The sniff begins with muscles in the nostrils straining to draw a current of air into them — this allows a large amount of any air-based odorant to enter the nose. At the same time, the air already in the nose has to be displaced. Again, the nostrils quiver slightly to push the present air deeper into the nose, or off through slits in the side of the nose and backward, out the nose and out of the way. In this way, inhaled odors don’t need to jostle with the air already in the nose for access to the lining of the nose. Here’s why this is particularly special: the photography also reveals that the slight wind generated by the exhale in fact helps to pull more of the new scent in, by creating a current of air over it.

This action is markedly different from human sniffing, with our clumsy “in through one nostril hole, out through the same hole” method. If we want to get a good smell of something, we have to sniff-hyperventilate, inhaling repeatedly without strongly exhaling. Dogs naturally create tiny wind currents in exhalations that hurry the inhalations in. So for dogs, the sniff includes an exhaled component that helps the sniffer smell. This is visible: watch for a small puff of dust rising up from the ground as a dog investigates it with his nose…

We might notice if our coffee’s been sweetened with a teaspoon of sugar; a dog can detect a teaspoon of sugar diluted in a million gallons of water: two Olympic-sized pools full.”

~ Alexandra Horowitz, Inside of a Dog. What Dogs, See, Smell and Know



  1. dogs clearly have super powers. we are mere mortals.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, reminds me of this:

      Animal lovers, especially female ones, are accused of being neurotic and unable to relate successfully to other human beings. More often than not, those pointing the finger have never had a pet. It seems to me the universe gave us three things to make life bearable: hope, jokes and dogs. But the greatest of these gifts was dogs.

      ~ Robyn Davidson, Tracks, a 1700 mile journey across Australia with a dog and three camels

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Those unable to successfully related to animals are nuerotic, IMHO. By the way, that photo looks to me more like a Lab’s nose than a French Bulldog’s nose. Thanks for sharing this–its fascinating and humbling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • IMHO, In My Humble Opinion – hadn’t seen that acronym. Will use it. Thanks.

      The source was a blog titled French Bulldog. Don’t think all the photos on site were of Frenc Bulldog.


  3. Fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I better worry then if one of the pups sticks his nose up in the air and walks away from me one day – 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We didn’t even know that Bumble had suddenly lost his eye sight until I came home from a trip one night and left my carryon in the middle of the floor, he ran to meet me and bumped into it. He definitely sees by smelling. It’s quite incredible.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting – that makes a lot of sense of all that twitching of a dogs nose the minute something appealing come anywhere near them. Must be a little overwhelming at times – no wonder they love food so much!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person


  1. Dr. Erik Goluboff

    Sniff. A small puff of dust… – Live & Learn


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