There are no real studies that determine which dog breeds, if any, have the “best” sense of smell. All dogs have an incredible ability to detect scents that would be impossible for humans to trace. With that said, what we’re focusing on for this list is the dog breeds most commonly used in the detection fields.
You’ll find these breeds hunting, performing search and rescue in the wilderness, over water, and in urban areas, finding weapons, drugs, sniffing out bed bugs and termites, and even assisting researchers by finding signs of elusive animals in the wild. It’s true that every dog has the nose to be able to perform these tasks, but these breeds also have the temperament to keep working very long hours.
#1 – Bloodhound
The Bloodhound is one of the most popular dog breeds when it comes to scent work. They are considered a scent hound, which means they use their noses over their ears and eyes to hunt their prey. Originally created to seek out boar and deer, they have been used to find lost people for centuries. It is thought that the Bloodhound has a superior sense of smell when compared to other breeds, but their desire to work has also helped them follow scents that are days old.
#2 – Beagle
The Beagle is the smallest of the hounds and is also a scent hound. They were originally bred for hunting hare and are still considered to be one of the best rabbiting dogs today. However, due to their small size and excellent tracking ability, Beagles are very widely used as detection dogs. In fact, the USDA is home to the Beagle Brigade – a team of Beagles and their handlers who help sniff out prohibited agricultural products at airports all over the United States.
#3 – German Shepherd Dog
The German Shepherd Dog is used widely in military and law enforcement venues, both as a detection and apprehension dog. Their strong desire to work makes them excellent tracking dogs and they are used in search and rescue as well as detection. These dogs are known for their dedication to their work and are regularly used to find narcotics, explosives, accelerants, and mines.
#4 – Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world and their temperament has made them a great choice for a variety of different jobs. Originally a hunting dog, their sense of smell and willingness to please has made them excellent candidates for scent work. Labradors have been used as detection dogs for narcotics and explosives as well as search and rescue dogs for both living and deceased victims.
#5 – Basset Hound
Although not widely used as a detection dog, the Basset Hound is a scent hound known for its incredible desire to track scent. Originally bred for hunting hare, Bassets have a mind of their own when they catch a scent they want to follow. There are still many people hunting with Basset Hounds today because of their desire to work and keen sense of smell.
#6 – Belgian Malinois
The Belgian Malinois accompanies the German Shepherd Dog in police and military venues. These dogs are bred almost exclusively for their working ability, which means they are not happy without a job to do. You will find Malinois performing detection work at border patrol stations, in airports and in active duty. They are trained to detect explosives, mines, narcotics and much, much more. Malinois are also becoming more popular as search and rescue dogs. Their desire to work makes them easy to train but requires a lot of dedication.