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8 Dog Breeds Known for Their Exceptional Sense of Smell

Written by: Ejay Camposano
A college graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering, Ejay has a diverse background that combines technical expertise with a passion for pets and is now one of the content writers at IHD. Read more
| Published on November 20, 2023

Certain dog breeds have an exceptional sense of smell, a trait that has been honed through centuries of selective breeding for specific tasks such as hunting, tracking, or detection work. These breeds possess olfactory senses far superior to humans and even many other dog breeds, making them invaluable in various scent-based roles. Here are eight dog breeds renowned for their extraordinary sense of smell.

1. Bloodhound

Bloodhounds are legendary for their sense of smell and are often considered the gold standard in tracking. With over 300 million scent receptors (compared to a human’s 5 million), their ability to follow a scent trail over great distances and time is unparalleled. Bloodhounds have been used for tracking missing persons and fugitives, their sense of smell so reliable it can be admissible in court.

2. Basset Hound

Basset Hounds, with their distinctive long ears and droopy skin, are renowned for their keen sense of smell. Their large ears help waft scents towards their nose, enhancing their ability to track. Originally bred for hunting small game, their olfactory skills make them exceptional at following ground scents.

3. Beagle

Beagles are small to medium-sized dogs with one of the best-developed senses of smell among canines. They possess around 220 million scent receptors and are skilled at picking up scents and tracking them. Beagles are often employed in quarantine zones to detect prohibited agricultural imports and foodstuffs in luggage.

4. German Shepherd

German Shepherds are versatile working dogs with a highly developed sense of smell. They are widely used in various scent-related roles, including police and military work for tracking, search and rescue operations, and detection of substances such as explosives and narcotics.

5. Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois, similar to German Shepherds, are known for their exceptional sense of smell and are often used in police and military roles. Their high level of intelligence, combined with their olfactory capabilities, makes them ideal for detection and tracking work.

6. Coonhound

Coonhounds, including breeds like the Black and Tan Coonhound and the Redbone Coonhound, are prized for their ability to track game, especially raccoons. They have an excellent sense of smell and an innate ability to follow trails over varied terrain.


7. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retrievers are not only popular family pets but also possess a keen sense of smell. They are commonly used for hunting and tracking, as well as detection work, such as sniffing out explosives, narcotics, and even medical conditions like diabetes and cancer.

8. English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniels are known for their agility and keen sense of smell. Originally bred for flushing games, their ability to detect and follow scents makes them excellent hunting companions. They are also used in roles such as explosive detection due to their superior olfactory skills.


These eight dog breeds, renowned for their exceptional sense of smell, play crucial roles in various scent-related tasks. From tracking and hunting to detection and search and rescue operations, their olfactory abilities are a testament to the diverse capabilities of dogs. Their remarkable sense of smell not only makes them invaluable working dogs but also highlights the extraordinary adaptations of canines in their partnership with humans.