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15 Dog Breeds with The Best Sense of Smell

First published:  November 6, 2022
Last updated: April 1, 2024
15 Dog Breeds with The Best Sense of Smell
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  • Bloodhounds can track people by their scent for days or even weeks.
  • German Shepherds can detect drugs, explosives, and other contraband.
  • Labrador Retrievers can be trained to detect cancer cells.
  • Golden Retrievers can be trained to track missing persons and find lost items.
  • Beagles can be used to detect drugs and explosives.
  • Belgian Malinois can be trained to detect drugs, explosives, and other contraband.

According to some studies, dogs have a stronger sense of smell and can sniff out things at least 50 times faster than humans. They can even pick up smells from great distances—way beyond our natural ability to detect them. There are some breeds that are better at smelling than others.

Currently, around 199 breeds of dogs are recognized globally by the American Kennel Club [1]. The executive secretary of AKC, Gina DiNardo, hints at 79 more breeds in the queue to be added to the recognized breeds.[2] 

With the help of canine registry clubs, especially the American Kennel Club, we have worked on our list of the top 15 dog breeds with unmatched smelling abilities. So, if you are looking for some dog breeds with an extraordinary sense of smell, go through the article and find your answer.

Sense of Smell in Dogs-Their SuperPower

With more than 200 million olfactory receptors, dogs are way beyond us humans. Their sense of smell is their superpower, and their nose- their weapon. This makes them perfect for law enforcement agencies across the globe. They are trained to sniff drugs, explosives, weapons, and other dangerous items. In addition, these dogs' keen olfactory senses allow them to perform tasks that would otherwise require expensive equipment and highly skilled personnel. 

When they smell something serious or abnormal, these intelligent beings start barking(link to psu) and let their caregiver know about the problem. 

The 15 Dog Breeds with The Best Sense of Smell

Keep reading to learn about some dog breeds with great sniffing powers. Not any of the following is far behind the other. They all have a remarkable sense of smell.

#1 Bloodhound


The Bloodhound tops the list. It earned this position due to its extraordinary sniffing skills. More than 230 million smell receptors make Bloodhounds the best choice for security agencies or as a police dog breed. With their wide nasal cavity and loose skin around their face and neck area, the picked scent lingers with their senses for longer than other breeds. 

Their olfactory sense cannot be questioned. They trail the smell through their nose on the ground. Bloodhounds can retrieve evidence through air scent as well. That's the reason for them to be nicknamed "sleuth hounds." They are the only dog breed whose findings are also accepted in the courtrooms.

#2 German Shepherd

German Shepherd

The German Shepherd is second on our list of the best sniffers. It is one famous herding dog breed with its exceptional ability to air scent. German Shepherds can sense hidden bombs and explosives with more than 220 million smell receptors in their nose. That's the reason they are employed as rescue or military dogs. 

Unlike other dog breeds, they are loving and warm-hearted toward their human masters to the extent of becoming overwhelming. That's why Separation anxiety hits them hard. 

#3 Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever

An all-time favorite of most of the dog-loving population of the US, the Labrador Retriever is no less than a genius in sniffing. With more than 300 million olfactory receptors, its role in the medical field is incredible. Lab, the nickname given to this dog breed, can identify cancer patients and notify doctors about them. 

They are also great police dogs and can help military personnel to sniff out bombs and drugs. They are great family dogs who like to please their human caregivers. This love for family and people around extends to jumping and licking their masters affectionately, which might end up in an irritating barking.

#4 Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever

Golden retrievers fall in America's top three ranking of popular dog breeds. The Golden color and the aesthetically pleasing silhouette are their identities. Their exceptional hunting and chasing skills are due to their unmatched sense of smell.

 They are more famous as a rescue breed. They may sniff out people stuck under the wreckage of an earthquake or other natural calamity. Their nose work is best for detecting the transportation of banned drugs at airports. Better obedience training may help them in becoming finer with their family life.

#5 Basset Hound

Basset Hound

Basset Hound has its origins in France. Its name is derived from the French term "Bas," which means low. Don't get deceived by its low height. It is intended for enormous tasks. Calling it the shorter version of Bloodhound won't be wrong. The American Kennel Club ranks this little beast next to the Bloodhound because of its amazing sense of sniffing. It has large hanging ears, loose skin beneath its chin area, and a lower height; all combine to create an extraordinary canine exclusively available for sniffing the toughest of scents. 

Basset hounds are high in determination. They keep following the scent trail and don't stop until they reach the exact source of the scent. We can safely say that they are only different from the bloodhounds due to their friendly nature. This little pup can prove to be one of the best friends of a human. 

#6 Beagle

Beagle Dog

Beagles have almost equal scent receptors to German Shepherds. They have a keen sense of smell and can sniff materials by following their powerful nose on the ground or through their air-scent ability. Their not-so-frightening and appealing features make them lovely pups for kids and grown-ups alike. They are actually the popular breed that can sniff out the ingredients in your pizza. Yes, they can recognize more than 50 distinct smells. 

Beagles are mainly employed at airports and seaports to custom-clear luggage. They can smell illegal or banned items like drugs or explosives with their wet noses. Like many other dog breeds, their friendly nature makes them an excellent fit for a family dog. 

#7 Bluetick Coonhound

Bluetick Coonhounds have a rich history. The present breed is a Southern American creation. With black and blue patterns on their glossy coat, their ability to chase raccoons has earned them their name. Their "cold nose" is one of the salient features. This is a particular term for the incredible sense of smell that can follow the hours or even weeks-old scent trails.

Their hunting nature made them a not-so-favorite breed for families or children. Blueticks are tasked with hunting giant wild creatures like polar bears, wild boars, cougars, and lynxes due to their exceptional olfactory abilities. In addition, they have a high endurance level. According to the author of Old Yeller, Fred Gipson; [3] Their strong sense of smell will make them run a trail of "30 hours at a stretch" to catch the target. 

#8 Black and Tan Coonhound

Another variant in the coonhound family is named the Black and Tan Coonhound. They are purely American crossbreeds. In the beginning, the red Indians who got settled in the Americas needed someone well-equipped to hunt raccoons.

 They are nocturnal and use their ability to follow the scent trail till they reach the source of the smell. They are also employed to find lost persons with their relentless efforts. With their exceptional sense of smell, Black and Tans keep their name on the top in hunting for game.

#9 Dachshund


If you put the head of a beagle on the body of a Bloodhound, a dachshund breed will be the result. These Smaller yet heavier breeds have such excellent noses that they can follow a scent trail left by game, be it a wild boar or a rodent.

 Originally hailing from Germany, they were used to catch rodents and vermin for their human caregivers. Their superior sense of smell will never let them fail at sniffing out their targets. They are typically family pets and would like to snuggle under your blanket.

#10 Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois

With their furry tails, this intelligent and hardworking canine breed is next in line. Their excellent senses have made them the first choice as a police or military dog breed.

 They can work efficiently as bomb-sniffing canines. Their role in the medical field, particularly in alerting medical professionals about prostate cancer, is another feather in their hat. Wildlife conservation authorities have recently encouraged their contribution by sniffing out the cheetah scat to save the population.

#11 Scottish Terrier

Scottish Terrier

Scotties have a royal-like silhouette. They are one of the breeds to be identified as white house dogs. Their olfactory capabilities make them great critter-catchers, especially in farmhouses. They can even sniff the vermin from underground and adequately dispose of them even by following in their burrows or dens. 

Scottish Terriers have a silky dark top coat. Sometimes, their fur grows over their eyes, and that's when they see through their nose; yes- they find the target through their extraordinary smelling skills.

#12 Rat Terrier

Rat Terrier Dog

Another incredible addition to the terrier group is this Rat terrier dog. They are great vermin-chasers with their exceptional sniffing capability. In addition, terriers have always been a playful and loving breed. 

Rat terrier earned its name after the complete eradication of rodents from the White House during President Roosevelt's Era. According to American Kennel Club[4] Mr. Theodore Roosevelt named his terrier after this great achievement. Without exaggeration, this little breed is a compact one with extraordinary sniffing skills, especially fit for game hunting.  

#13 Pointer

Pointer Dog

What do pointers do? They do their name business. Yes, pointers are well-known for pointing critters like game birds through their amazing sniffing powers for centuries. The dog follows its nose successfully attempting to point out its prey. No game or quarry can stay hidden from these pointers. They will ultimately sniff out their odors and point their masters toward them. They are great runners and "unquestioned aristocrats of the sporting world"[5]. Their loyalty makes them one of the finest family dog breeds.

#14 German Shorthaired Pointer

German Shorthaired Pointer

It is their tail that makes the truth of their name absolute. This German beauty, commonly known as GSP, is found to be people's favorite pointer which exactly points out the direction of their prey, especially game birds. 

Their sniffing skills have also made them a perfect breed for contraband detection. Their outstanding olfactory capabilities reckon them as one of the best find and rescue breeds. GSPs are not-at-all peaceful family pups and need vigorous training and an exercise schedule.

#15 English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniel Dog

Although its ears are the most noticeable feature of its body, English Springer Spaniel has an excellent smelling skill that has helped it excel at the job of the contraband detector and bomb finder. Like many other breeds, it hailed as a game catcher and later excelled at the mentioned chores. 

They are even used for rescuing living beings too. Their curly hair texture may require frequent cleaning of their body, especially after a specific job is done. 

Frequently Asked Questions

You might have questions about the scent hound breeds of dogs. So, here we are with some of the FAQs that might help you gain more knowledge and answer those queries. 

Are dogs with the best sense of smell great pets?

Most likely, no. A great sniffer would want to sniff anything that tickles its olfactory senses. There are some treats, like granola bars or other things in your pantry, which you don't like to share with them, but such a scenthound would sniff it, which might become destructive in reaching it. So, you should be ready for some challenges while adopting those sniffers.

How Do They Go With New Owners?

First-time pet owners are not recommended to own such hound breeds. They are stubborn and need creative tactics to train. Some of them are good family dogs, but again, they have an innate behavioral attitude of not working under constant eyeing. If you are new to dog ownership, you should abandon the idea.

Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses?

A wet nose for a canine is a must-have for it to function properly. It is not a sign of any flu-like ailment but a natural way to work better. The moist outside of the nostrils and the mucus-covered inside of the nostrils trap scent particles. Dogs dislike having dry noses. They tend to lick their noses to provide moisture to their nasal cavity. An intelligent dog doesn't want to be left behind with important information because of a dry nose!

I'm Not a Professional Trainer. Can I Train A Scenthound?

You can train a hound dog with keen olfactory senses if you have great courage and patience. However, you need to be devoted and dedicated to training the sniffer. They are not impossible to train, but they are challenging. They have a sense of hunting independently and staying out of their owner's sight. Therefore, we advise you to hire a professional and certified dog trainer for your sniff hound.


Although this is not an exhaustive list of dog breeds with the best sense of smell, we have tried our best to share a well-researched and comprehensive list of such dogs. Of course, every other dog is a hero in its place, but Bloodhound is one dog in the hunter category, which is undoubtedly the best dog regarding sniffing skills. 

The Spaniels and Terriers are other graceful additions to the list. On the other hand, the German Shepherd's muscular body and alert ears win them a worthy position. We hope you enjoyed reading about the top 15 dog breeds with the best sense of smell. If you want to know more about any breeds listed here, visit the American Kennel Club and get your query answered.


1. American Kennel Club, Dog Breeds

2. Reader’s Digest, How Many Breeds of Dogs Are There in the World?

3. Amazon, Old Yeller (HarperClassics) Paperback

4. American Kennel Club, Rat Terrier

5. American Kennel Club, Pointer

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