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Can a Dog Smell Human Pheromones? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Written by: Melissa Gunter

Last Updated on June 27, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog sniffing owner's hands

Can a Dog Smell Human Pheromones? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ


Dr. Amanda Charles Photo


Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dogs can be embarrassing. It never seems to fail that when people stop by to visit, our best friends and furry family members will greet guests by sniffing their crotches and acting as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. Oddly enough, for your dog, it is. This is how a dog learns about the people around them. They use their powerful noses. Knowing this may lead you to ask, can a dog smell human pheromones? The answer to that question is yes. Dogs can use their powerful snouts to smell way more than you can imagine. Let’s learn more about dogs and their ability to smell human pheromones. This may make things less awkward the next time a neighbor stops by and your dog is a bit intrusive.


A Dog’s Amazing Nose

A dog’s sense of smell leads them throughout the world. Dogs can smell 1,000 times better than we humans can and dogs have around 300 million olfactory receptors. If you are curious as to whether this is a lot, we humans only have 6 million of these receptors. When a dog smells something with these receptors, the part of their brains that analyzes these smells is activated. That part of your dog’s brain is 40 times larger than your own.

Dogs use these smells to tell them information about what’s happening around them. They can learn things about the area, people they are around, and other canines they may encounter. This happens due to dogs continuously smelling. Dogs have additional slits on their nostrils. Instead of exhaling through their nostrils as we do, they exhale through those slits. This is what allows them to sniff continuously. Exhaled air is separated from the new scents they are taking in. A dog’s nose also separates the air they need for breathing from the scents they are taking in.

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The Jacobson’s Organ

The vomeronasal organ, or Jacobson’s organ, is found in the area of your dog’s nasal cavity and the roof of its mouth. This organ is typically used by your dog to detect pheromones, allowing sexual and social assessment of other dogs. This is how male dogs learn that females are in heat. They use this organ when they smell a female’s urine. At times, it can also be used to alert dogs to danger that may be around them.

Dogs and Pheromones

Pheromones are a chemical that animals release that can affect the physiology or behavior of other animals of the same species. Dogs secrete many different pheromones from different areas of their body, with the most concentrated amount of glands being around their genitals and anus. This is why they sniff the rear end of another dog when they meet. Different canine pheromones provide different messages.

In people, pheromones are mostly produced in the armpits and genitals. When we release pheromones, our dog’s intense sense of smell can pick this up. This is why so many dogs rush toward our no-no zones when they meet us, when we come home from work, or when they notice a change in us. It’s how they learn what’s going on. For example, dogs may be able to detect ovulation, although this is not definitively proven.

While many dog owners may feel that this sniffing isn’t behavior they want from their dog, it’s simply an important part of how they interpret the world and the people and animals in it. All the time they are sniffing, they are processing important information.

dog on a woman's lap
Image Credit: Tamara Bellis, Unsplash

What Can Dogs Smell on Us?

We all know our dogs can smell other animals on us when we come home. We’ve all received those looks of jealousy when we realize we’ve been playing with another dog. There’s a lot more to it, however. With dogs smelling our pheromones, it only makes sense that they can smell other things.

Dogs can smell adrenaline when we’re worked up or scared. They can also sense tiny changes in odors produced by the human body associated with disease. Medical Detection Dogs have been trained to diagnose cancer, Parkinson’s disease and sniff out bacterial infections. They can also act as alert assistance dogs for example to alert diabetic patients when their blood sugar is low. What dogs can smell on us is truly amazing.

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If you’ve wondered about dogs and their ability to smell our pheromones, now you know that they can. While the act of them getting a sniff of these pheromones is a bit off-putting, it’s important for bond forming and your dog feeling like they’re part of the family. Of course, you can always work with your dog to teach them better manners so that this private area sniffing doesn’t get out of hand.

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Featured Image Credit: Prostock-studio, Shutterstock

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