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Top 12 Dog Breeds with the Best Sense of Smell (With Pictures)

Written by: Greg Iacono

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Dogster Team

labrador retriever smelling grass

Top 12 Dog Breeds with the Best Sense of Smell (With Pictures)

If there’s one thing everyone knows about dogs, it’s that they have a better sense of smell than humans. For example, drug and bomb-sniffing dogs are a common sight at airports and sporting events today. Dogs get chosen for scent-detection duties because they can smell even the tiniest amount of an illegal or lethal substance. If you’re interested in learning which pups have the most advanced noses, keep reading below for the 12 dog breeds with the best sense of smell.


Top 12 Dog Breeds With the Best Sense of Smell

1. Bloodhound

Image By: Edoma, Shutterstock
Origin: Belgium
Size: Large
Temperament: Kind, sweet-natured, affectionate
Trainability: Slightly difficult

The Bloodhound, the most famous dog with an amazing ability to identify scents, has approximately 230 million scent receptors! Bloodhounds have been known to track people for miles and over the harshest terrain, never losing track of their scent. Bloodhounds are also one of the most chosen dogs for police work and are said to have the strongest sense of smell among all the breeds.

2. Basset Hound

Basset Hound lying down on the grass
Image Credit: Billion Photos, Shutterstock
Origin: France and England
Size: Medium to large
Temperament: Easygoing, friendly, stubborn
Trainability: Moderately difficult

What’s interesting about the Basset Hound is that it looks so much like a bloodhound but one that’s been shrunk down to size. Basset Hounds are about as laid-back a breed as they come, but when one latches onto a scent, there’s no stopping it. Although basset hounds look small thanks to their tiny legs, adults can reach 65 pounds, which can be deceiving. Training a basset to use its sense of smell to perform a job is more complicated because of its stubborn streak, but it is possible with patience and persistence.

3. Beagle

Image Credit: Przemek Iciak, Shutterstock
Origin: England
Size: Small to medium
Temperament: Playful, friendly, athletic
Trainability: Relatively easy

If you doubt the beagle’s ability to sniff out a smell, consider this; many are trained to sniff out cancer in human patients. That’s right, the beagle’s sense of smell is so strong they can smell some types of cancer, and many are trained for cancer screening. Beagles are easy to train, are medium-sized for easy transport, and once they get a scent, they don’t stop until they find what they smell. Beagles are also a great family dog after they “retire.”

4. Belgian Malinois

belgian malinois standing outdoor
Image Credit: BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock
Origin: Belgium
Size: Large
Temperament: Fiercely loyal, standoffish with strangers
Trainability: Relatively difficult

The Belgian Malinois is a prized dog all over the world for its amazing sense of smell, excellent work ethic, and incredible athleticism. Many Belgian Malinois are trained for bomb-sniffing teams in Europe, and some are K9 officers on police forces across the continent. They need extra special care, attention, and constant engagement to be happy and healthy.

5. Bluetick Coonhound

Bluetick coonhound
Image Credit: Taylor Walter, Shutterstock
Origin: United States
Size: Large
Temperament: Lovable, goofy, and affectionate
Trainability: Relatively difficult

As a truly American dog, the Bluetick Coonhound has been bred for generations to sniff out animals while hunting. One of the unique traits of this breed is that, once they’ve cornered an animal like a raccoon, rabbit, or wild boar, they bay excitedly to let their humans know they’ve been successful. However, they are best for big families with big yards.

6. Dachshund

black and tan dachshund standing outdoor
Image Credit: JeannieR, Shutterstock
Origin: Germany
Size: Small
Temperament: Lively, courageous, and clever
Trainability: Relatively easy

Would you believe that the tiny “wiener dog,” the dachshund, was bred to fight and kill badgers that were ravaging farms in Germany in the 1700s? The Dachshund needed an enhanced sense of smell to find them since badgers live underground. Today the Dachshund is a family pet favorite around the world and is not used for many jobs that demand a great nose. They love to dig, however, so give them a place to do it (or risk losing your flowers).

7. English Foxhound

English foxhound
Image Credit: Mary Swift, Shutterstock
Origin: England
Size: Medium
Temperament: High-energy, friendly, stubborn
Trainability: Relatively easy

English Foxhounds are like the guy or girl at the dance that flirts with everyone. They have a very strong sense of family and like to be in packs when possible. The breed’s sense of smell was honed over hundreds of years of tracking foxes while hunting, although today, most are gentle and affectionate house pets, not hunters.

8. English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniel walking on grass
Image Credit: Chiemsee2016, Pixabay
Origin: Spain, England
Size: Small
Temperament: happy, energetic, curious
Trainability: Relatively easy

The English Springer Spaniel was first bred to flush out ducks and other fowl in marshlands and, after they were shot, retrieve them for their owners. Their sense of smell might not be as keen as the bloodhound, but English Springer Spaniels are often used as bomb and drug-sniffing dogs across the US and in airports. If you decide to adopt an English Springer Spaniel, be sure you have plenty of time and energy because they demand lots of both.

9. German Shepherd

German Shepherd
Image Credit: Osetrik, Shutterstock
Origin: Germany
Size: Large
Temperament: Gentle, affectionate, and aloof
Trainability: Relatively easy

German Shepherds might be the only dogs on today’s list that truly equal, and maybe surpass, the bloodhound in terms of its sense of smell. German Shepherds are commonly seen on search-and-rescue teams and make excellent bomb-sniffing dogs. They also make fantastic seeing-eye dogs, and their sense of smell can warn of danger. It helps that the German Shepherd is the ultimate “velcro dog” in that they stay at its owner’s side at all costs.

10. Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever in the snow
Image Credit: Tomas Anunziata, Pexels
Origin: Scotland
Size: Large
Temperament: gentle, outgoing, playful
Trainability: Relatively easy

As if being America’s favorite dog wasn’t enough, the Golden Retriever also has an amazing sense of smell and is an excellent therapy dog. Goldies have been used as trauma dogs for decades and are often brought to areas where a natural disaster has occurred. Their keen sense of smell and affectionate nature is a winning combination in the aftermath. Golden Retrievers need a firm touch when young and being trained, or they can be quite rowdy. Other than that, they are truly wonderful dogs and make fantastic pets and companions.

11. Labrador Retriever

close up of labrador retriever
Image Credit: Chiemsee2016, Pixabay
Origin: Newfoundland
Size: Large
Temperament: Sweet-natured, affectionate, and friendly
Trainability: Easy

While Labrador Retrievers are the quintessential duck-hunting dogs, they are also prized for their ability to sniff out drugs and bombs. The fact that they are one of the most affectionate and eager-to-please breeds only helps the matter and makes them even more invaluable as sniffers. If you can guide your Labrador Retriever through adolescence, you’ll have a wonderful friend and companion for life.

12. Scottish Terrier

Scottish Terrier
Image Credit: Tesa Robbins, Pixabay
Origin: Scotland
Size: Small
Temperament: Independent, stubborn, playful
Trainability: Moderately difficult (stubborn)

Initially prized for its ability to kill vermin on farms in Scotland, the Scottish Terrier is well-known around the world. In the past, a Scottish Terrier’s nose would take them anywhere their prey ran, even underground, into dens and burrows. Today, however, most Scottish Terriers live a life of luxury with their owner, without a rat, mouse, badger, or raccoon to deal with. One thing you need to remember if you adopt a Scottish Terrier is that they are incredibly stubborn sometimes and demand extra diligence when training.

divider-dog paw

Final Thoughts

Most dogs have an incredible sense of smell compared to humans. However, the dogs we’ve discussed go beyond the norm and into the realm of super-smellers. That includes the most powerful smeller in the dog world, the Bloodhound, and extends to many others. Several breeds are invaluable to humans, and they keep us safe in a dangerous world thanks to their superior sense of smell.

Featured Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock

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