Holiday Smells: The Nose Knows


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Holiday Smells: The Nose Knows!    The aromatic heralds of the holiday season are coming to your dog's home soon; roasted chestnuts, eggnog lattes, cranberry sauce, hot pumpkin-spice pie, gingerbread cookies and turkey, scented candles and pine tress. Yum!

Pet parents often believe dogs can learn to see things from the human point of view. However, although dogs are extraordinarily teachable and adaptable they are also utterly unique. Understanding how your dog perceives the world can deeper your relationship. Dogs live in a subterranean world full of information we are entirely unaware of — a world where the nose leads.

Puppies are born with a fully functioning sense of smell. Dogs get most of their information about the world from sniffing a continuous stream of scents that travel directly to the brain. The dog brain is dominated by olfactory structures larger than the area of the brain devoted to vision in humans. Their sense of smell is anywhere from 100,000 to 100,000,000 times greater than a human’s! Dogs help detect cancer, locate disaster victims, find illegal drugs and find other lost pets. The intensity of their sniffing experiences is beyond our imagination. Be careful not to subject your dog to powerful scents that may be mild to us but overwhelming to your dog, such as citronella collars, cleaning products and air fresheners.


Photo Courtesy of Patton and Jade

Research shows that odors are strongly tied to emotional memories, so leaving your dog with a “comfort item” such as a work out t-shirt can help with separation anxiety during the holiday or any season. Nose work classes are very popular and fun.

If you're cooking a turkey dinner this holiday, rest assured your dog can easily identify each ingredient individually in your carefully executed recipe. Your dog is your most ardent admirer. Expecting your dog to ignore, not become excited or worst of all, be left out of the festivities just isn't fair! Merricks® Thanksgiving and Holiday/Christmas Day Dinners are big favorites. Or why not cook up a special canine-safe plate for your furry member of the family and celebrate together? Or go all-out with a private cooking lesson for you and your dog. Bon Appetit!

Linda Michaels, MA, and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker may be reached at 858.259.9663 or by email:[email protected] for private behavioral consultations near the San Diego Coast. Visit us at

Originally published in the U~T San Diego, Scratch n’ Sniff. Chris Ross, Editor.


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Positively Expert: Linda Michaels, MA

Linda Michaels is a VSPDT trainer, dog training columnist, and owner of Dog Psychologist On Call in Del Mar, CA. Linda holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology with research experience in Behavioral Neurobiology. She is a Behavioral Advisor for the Wolf Education Project (WEP) in Julian, CA and Art for Barks in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.


One thought on “Holiday Smells: The Nose Knows

  1. Laurie

    Great points here. My dog(s) have all gotten special holiday meals to be part of the festivities.

    Also, remember the finger foods on all the side tables, be sure they are dog safe in case fido liberates one.

    Happy holidays.

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