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11 Dog Breeds Known for Their Incredible 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 January 2, 2024

Dogs have long been celebrated for their remarkable sense of smell, a trait that has made them invaluable companions not just in homes, but also in various professional fields. While all dogs possess a better sense of smell than humans, certain breeds stand out for their extraordinary olfactory capabilities. These breeds have been selectively bred over generations to enhance their scenting ability, making them adept at tasks ranging from hunting and tracking to detecting explosives and even diseases. This article delves into eleven such dog breeds, each renowned for its incredible sense of smell. These breeds exhibit an unparalleled ability to detect and discriminate scents, a skill that is not only fascinating but also immensely beneficial to human society.

1. Bloodhound

The Bloodhound is often hailed as the king of scent-tracking dogs. With a sense of smell that is among the most acute of all breeds, Bloodhounds have been used for centuries in tracking and search-and-rescue operations. Their large, long ears help waft scents towards their nose, and their deep, wrinkled skin traps the scents, aiding in their tracking ability. Bloodhounds are capable of following a scent trail for days, even over long distances, making them invaluable in law enforcement and search operations.

2. Basset Hound

Basset Hounds, with their distinctive droopy ears and short legs, are highly skilled scent hounds. Their keen sense of smell is second only to the Bloodhound. These dogs were originally bred to hunt small game by scent. Their long, low-set ears help sweep scents from the ground up to their nose, and their loose, wrinkly skin helps trap the scents. Basset Hounds are patient and persistent trackers, making them excellent at following a trail to its end.


3. Beagle

Beagles are small hounds with a remarkable sense of smell and tracking ability. Originally bred for hunting hares, they are skilled at picking up and following a scent. Beagles are often used in airports and border checkpoints for detecting prohibited agricultural imports and foodstuffs in luggage due to their keen nose. Their size, energy, and resilience make them perfect for long-tracking jobs.

4. German Shepherd

German Shepherds are versatile dogs, known not only for their intelligence and strength but also for their excellent scenting ability. They are widely used in police and military roles around the world for tasks like tracking criminals, searching for drugs, and detecting explosives. Their strong sense of smell, combined with their ability to work in various terrains and conditions, makes them ideal working dogs in scent-related roles.

5. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retrievers are one of the most popular breeds for scent work, especially in detection and search-and-rescue roles. Their extraordinary sense of smell, combined with their eagerness to please and high trainability, makes them well-suited for tasks such as finding missing persons and detecting substances like narcotics and explosives. Labs are also used in medical fields to detect diseases like cancer and diabetes.

6. Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois is another breed highly regarded for its scenting ability, particularly in police and military operations. These dogs are often used in tracking, narcotics detection, and explosive detection due to their keen sense of smell and eagerness to work. Belgian Malinois are known for their agility, intelligence, and ability to work under challenging conditions, making them excellent scent-detection dogs.

7. English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniels are renowned for their sharp sense of smell, which makes them excellent hunting companions, particularly in flushing-out games. They are also used in various scent detection roles, including narcotics and explosive detection, as well as in search-and-rescue operations. Their enthusiasm for work and ability to concentrate on a scent trail make them exceptional in scent-related tasks.

8. Coonhound

Coonhounds, a breed native to the United States, are known for their ability to track scents over long distances. Originally bred for hunting raccoons, they are excellent at tracking through different terrains. Coonhounds are often used in hunting and tracking roles, utilizing their powerful noses to follow trails that are hours or even days old.

9. Pointer

Pointers, particularly the German Shorthaired Pointer, are admired for their exceptional sense of smell, used primarily for hunting game birds. They are skilled at locating and pointing to the location of birds for hunters. Their acute sense of smell and ability to stay focused on the scent make them outstanding in the field.

10. Foxhound

Foxhounds, which include the American and English varieties, are bred for their hunting abilities, particularly for their scenting skills. They are fast, endurance runners capable of following complex scents over long distances and challenging terrains. Foxhounds are sociable, energetic, and have a keen nose, making them excellent for hunting and tracking.

11. Weimaraner

Weimaraners, originally bred for hunting large game like deer and bear, have a highly developed sense of smell. They are versatile hunting dogs, skilled in tracking, pointing, and retrieving. Their keen nose makes them suitable for various scent work, including search and rescue and sniffing out illicit substances.


These eleven dog breeds, with their incredible sense of smell, play vital roles in various sectors, leveraging their natural abilities for the benefit of human society. Whether in law enforcement, hunting, search and rescue, or medical detection, these breeds highlight the extraordinary capabilities of dogs and their invaluable partnership with humans. Their remarkable scenting skills are a testament to the diverse and impressive abilities of our canine companions.