Which Dog Has the Best Sense of Smell: Top 10 Breeds

Which Dog Has the Best Sense of Smell
John Walton
Written by John Walton

It is common knowledge that all dog breeds possess an incredible sense of smell which is better than ours. However, there are some breeds that are better than the others and most of them are used for specific roles. Have you ever wondered which dog has the best sense of smell?

So what could be a reason that these breeds are sought after? Some of them are used by the police in order to detect scents that could lead to illegal substances while some breeds are used to find missing persons, rare plants and food or hunting. In this article we are going to see which dog has the best sense of smell and we will cover 10 best breeds. If you are interested in a dog that has this incredible ability, then stay tuned in!

Dog Groups That Are Famous for Their Sense of Smell

Let’s take a look at dog groups that contain breeds with the best sense of smell.

Which Dog Has the Best Sense of Smell

You will notice that what most of these dogs have in common is hunting by scent; this ability turned them into great companions for hunting, searching and tracking.

  • Scent hounds are hunting dogs that track the prey by scent rather than sight. They are the dogs with the most sensitive noses. Most of these dogs are not very fast but they can endure traveling for a long time which made them good hunting companions.
  • Gun dogs have been trained to help hunters with finding and retrieving game, mostly wild birds. Retrievers, flushing dogs and pointing breeds belong to this group. They are the breeds that love spending time in the nature and wandering around. They are also famous for their “pointing” posture. The most famous breeds include the English Pointer and Golden Retriever.
  • Cur is a term that usually refers to a dog of mixed breeding. However, it was a term originally used for short-tailed dogs from England that herded cattle.

Top ten dogs with the best sense of smell


The Bloodhound is a dog breed of large size that is considered one of the best when it comes to detecting scents. Originating from Belgium, this powerful dog’s original role was to hunt wild boars and deer.

Bloodhound Smell Sense

However, ever since the Middle Ages his other, probably even more important role, has been to track people. The Bloodhound is famous for being able to discern smell over great distances, even if the scent is a couple of days old. He also has a strong tracking instinct which makes him a great choice for working with law enforcement.

When it comes to his temperament, the Bloodhound is very gentle which makes him a great family dog. He does along with children, but considering his size he should be always supervised around toddlers. He is very affectionate and calm, but can be difficult to train due to his need to roam and wander around.

Basset Hound

The Basset Hound is a dog breed of medium size that originates from Great Britain and France. His original role was to hunt hare and he is famous for his extraordinary sense of smell. He was named after his very short legs that enable them to go into holes after rabbits and other small animals.

Basset Hound Smelling Ability

The Basset Hounds are usually tricolor with long ears and tails plus they have hanging skin which makes their faces look really depressed. However, many owners find this to be part of their charm. However, it is known that this breed can often suffer from ear and eye problems which can be contributed to their droopy physique.

Speaking of their temperament, the Basset Hounds are extremely gentle, calm, outgoing and tolerant. They are great as family dogs and like children. They can be seen cuddling with toddlers and being very docile around them.

Basset Hound

It is interesting to note that the ancestors of this breed were used in Ancient Greece and Rome as hunting dogs. They has short legs as well. Today, the Basset Hound is used primarily for hunting sports and it is a popular breed in Great Britain and France.


The Beagle is a dog breed of small size originating from England. He is physically very similar to a foxhound and his original role was to hunt hare and other small wild animals. Nowadays he is often used as a detection dog due to his amazing tracking instinct.

Beagle Smelling Ability

The Beagle is a popular dog because of his calm and gentle nature, medium size and intelligence, but he is also very single-minded and stubborn. This breed was developed during the 1830s in Great Britain even though this type of hounds has existed for more than two thousand years.

Beagling is an activity named after this breed because the Beagle mostly hunts hare. Their stamina made them great companions for hunters who would follow them on horseback. The Beagles would not finish the hare but they would definitely make hunting an all-day activity. They are also popular dogs for detecting food items.

Beagle Smelling Ability

The most famous Beagle is probably Snoopy, a dog character from the comic ‘Peanuts’. The Beagle can also be spotted on numerous paintings from the Elizabethan era, and they are also mentioned in literature. They can be amazing companion dogs due to their docile nature.

German Shepherd

The German Shepherd is a dog breed of large size originating from Germany. Also known as the Alsatian, this powerful working dog has been used for various roles due to his versatility and amazing sense of smell.

German Shepherd Smelling Ability

The origin of this breed dates back to 1899 which makes it a new breed, but he is one of the most popular breeds in the world. Their original roles was to herd and guard sheep, but ever since then they have been used by the police force, as guard dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, even by military and as disability assistants.

The German Shepherds usually are tan and black and their coats can be either short or long. Their ears are erect and legs long and strong. They are famous for being intelligent and they often work as search and rescue dogs but they are also great family dogs.

German Shepherd Smelling Ability

This breed is renowned for being very protective of family members, especially children. They are also great guard dogs who are not afraid to defend their packs. As for their keen sense of smell, they are the most famous for detecting explosives and drugs, which has earned them a special place in military and police.

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever is a dog breed of large size that is considered one of the most popular dogs in the world. They are known not only for their keen sense of smell but also loving personality that makes them a great choice for disability assistance.

Labrador Retriever Smelling

Their original role was the one of a gun dog in the United Kingdom and they were often used by the aristocracy in hunting sports. Today the Labrador Retriever enjoys a wide range of roles, including drug and explosive detection, arson, rescue and search and many more.

This breed is notable for being a great swimmer due to its tolerance of cold; but they are also praised for their intelligence. There has been a case when a Labrador who managed to save an unconscious person by covering him with a blanket and running to the nearby hotel to alert the staff.

This breed is not considered to be a good guardian even though they can sense someone approaching from afar. They are too friendly to strangers.

Labrador Retriever Smelling Ability

The Labrador Retrievers are the most famous for their calm, loving and affectionate nature. That is why they are mostly seen as companion dogs. They are also a great choice for families because they get along great with children. All in all, this is one very versatile breed that is for a good reason one of the most popular in the world.


The Malinois, also known as the Belgian Shepherd, is a dog breed of large size that originates from Belgium. This breed belongs to the shepherd category of dogs which means that its original role was to herd and guard cattle. In appearance, the Belgian Shepherd is very similar to the German Shepherd but has a more distinctive and longer muzzle and leaner physique. He has very powerful and long legs that enable him to run fast and jump high.

As for their temperament, this breed is known as affectionate, active, intelligent, very protective but also friendly. They are also alert and hard-working and they are more used as working dogs than companions.

Malinois Smelling

The Belgian Malinois is not as popular as German shepherds, but it is still a breed that is regularly breed for the purpose of detection, search and rescue, police and military actions, personal protection, and even sports. Their sense of smell is amazing and they can detect explosives and drugs. Their size is perfect for these roles because they are big enough to handle an attacker but still can be picked up by their owners if there is need for that.

English Springer Spaniel

The English Springer Spaniel is a dog breed of medium size that originated in England. This breed’s original role was to act as a gun dog and assist their owners during the hunting. The Spaniel is famous for being loving, friendly and affectionate.

English Springer Spaniel

This Spaniel also loves to please his master and he can also be a good family dog. His stamina, sense of smell and intelligence make him a great working dog who can hunt even smallest animals. That unfortunately means that this breed does not go well with cats.

As for his detection skills, the Springer Spaniel has been used as a sniffer dog as well. There are many famous search dogs that managed to sniff out hidden weapons and explosives. There have also been cases of dogs that can differentiate between legal and illegal cellphones among inmates.

English Springer Spaniel

This breed can also detect blood, people who hide in car trunks in order to illegally cross the border, drugs, and work as a search and rescue dog. His stature might me medium but he can handle the rough terrains just as well, which is one of the reasons why he is taken with mountain rescue teams in order to find missing persons. It is obvious that his medium size does not prevent him from withstanding harsh weather and elements; and neither impacts his sense of smell.


The Coonhound is a dog breed of medium size that originated in the United States. There are officially six varieties of this breed and they are known for their excellent sense of smell. They all belong to the hound group that used to hunt and game animals.


Nowadays, this breed is used as a working dog due to his scenting ability. The most hunted animal was the raccoon, but now they can sniff out illegal substances, food or even people who try to cross borders illegally. They are able to not only smell but also track, chase and corner the prey. Their medium size is no obstacle and they can be seen at airports, helping the security during their controls.

This breed is known as a barker who will let his owner know where the hidden prey or object is. Some hunters like to keep them in packs, but they work great even individually. However, even though this breed is very intelligent and capable, it is one of the least known hound dogs and they are not often kept as companion dogs.

German Shorthaired Pointer

The German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) is a dog breed of medium to large size that originated in Germany. It has been mostly for hunting since the 19th century. This breed belongs to the sporting group of dogs.

German Shorthaired Pointer

As for his appearance, the GSP has floppy ears, big muzzle, powerful and long legs and a lean body. He got named Pointer due to the posture he makes after noticing the prey. Nowadays he is mostly used as a hunting dog that can also compete in sports.

Speaking of his temperament, the GSP is described a good companion dog that is also an affectionate family member. He needs lots of exercise because of his high energy levels and he loves running, mushing, bikejoring and hunting. If you are an active person who spends a lot of time in the nature, then this breed might be for you.

German Shorthaired Pointer

Since his original role was to snuff out prey and game, it is no wonder that his sense of smell is so powerful. He is not often used as a detection dog but he can easily snuff out anything he has been trained to find.


The Pointer, also known as the English Pointer, is a dog breed of medium to large size that originated in England. It belongs to the group of gun dogs and pointing breeds. His keen sense of smell is able to detect prey from large distances, making him a great choice for hunting.

This breed is known as very active, strong, determined and agile. The pointer has been used as a gun dog for a long time and he loves spending time in the nature and chasing after small animals. He can be a great companion and family dog as well since his nature is mostly docile. However, it is not recommended for him to be kept together with small pets and cats because his instinct would make him to go after them.

Pointer Smelling

He is sometimes even referred to as only the “bird dog” because his primary prey is birds. They can sense them easily and then freeze in place in order to indicate the location of the prey. That is how they got their main name “Pointers”.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, we have covered 10 dog breeds with the best sense of smell. Each of these amazing dogs is famous for a very keen sense of smelling therefore they are used for a wide range of roles.

Some of them are hunting and gun dogs while the others work with the police and military. The others have roles such as search and rescue dogs or dogs that need to detect explosives, food, drugs, illegal foods and even people. Their amazing ability helps our society every day and that is why many of these dogs are honored and cherished, as they should be.

Dog Is Sniffing The Ground

Have you ever owned any of these breeds? Which breed are you interested in the most? Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comment section below.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.