The 15 Dog Breeds with the Strongest and Best Sense of Smell

Sense of Smell
© Animals

Written by Kellianne Matthews

Published: November 25, 2023

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When it comes to extraordinary sniffers, dogs have a lot to brag about. In fact, our favorite canine companions have an incredible sense of smell that is up to 40 times stronger and more sensitive than our own. As cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz explains, while a human can notice a teaspoon of sugar in their coffee, a dog can detect a teaspoon of sugar in 1,320,000 gallons of water! However, the strength of these olfactory senses varies from dog to dog. So, which dog breeds have the strongest and best sense of smell? Let’s take a look!

15. American English Coonhound

American Coonhound hiking

American English coonhounds are hardworking dogs with lots of energy.

©SMS Photography/

The American English coonhound stands out from other types of coonhounds due to its wide range of colors. From the distinctive redtick and bluetick patterns to bold bicolored and tricolored coats with ticking, American English coonhounds sport many beautiful colors and patterns. In addition to their multi-hued coats, American English Coonhounds also have an exceptional sense of smell. These incredible scent hounds were bred as the ultimate hunters of raccoons American red foxes. Renowned for their olfactory abilities, they can detect and follow scents over long distances and often amid challenging conditions. 

14. English Foxhound

Four English Foxhound Puppies

English foxhounds are social, but they don’t make great pets due to their intense hunting drive.

©Angela Lock/

Originating in England, English foxhounds have a rich history as fox hunters. Not only are they incredibly smart and responsive, but these dogs also have 200 million olfactory scent receptors, which is more than any other foxhound breed! This remarkable sensory advantage gives them an astounding ability to detect scents and navigate across challenging terrain and weather conditions as skilled trackers. In addition, English foxhounds have amazing stamina, allowing them to continue tracking scents over long distances as indispensable hunting companions. 

13. Plott Hound

A brindled plott hound on a boat on the water

Plott hounds are well known for their beautiful brindled fur coats.

©Will Hughes/

The Plott hound is the only type of coonhound without any foxhound genes. This beautiful breed originates from dogs brought to the United States by German immigrants in the late eighteenth century. Instead of foxes and other smaller animals, the Plott hound’s ancestors hunted large animals like boars and bears! Today’s Plott hounds are strong and muscular, with incredible speed, endurance, stamina, and glossy brindled fur coats. These fearless canines commonly serve in search and rescue due to their keen sense of smell. In addition, the Plott hound also happens to be the official state dog of North Carolina!

12. German Shorthaired Pointer

German Shorthaired Pointer dog in grass

German shorthaired pointer

s literally “point” with their bodies when they locate prey.


The German shorthaired pointer is an all-purpose gun dog with an incredible sense of smell. Versatile and adaptable, these dogs are canine powerhouses that transition seamlessly between serving as a pointer and a retriever, and as upland bird dogs and water dogs. They also are skilled at hunting larger and more dangerous animals, are excellent swimmers, and can navigate rough terrains. German shorthaired pointers also commonly serve in law enforcement, assisting their human counterparts with their remarkable nose work skills.

11. English Springer Spaniel

English springer spaniel

English springer spaniels are both excellent hunters as well as loving companions.

©Martin Christopher Parker/

Don’t let its sweet face and affectionate nature fool you: the English springer spaniel has one of the strongest and best senses of smell out there! These gorgeous hunting dogs are tough and muscular, with beautifully colored fur coats. One of their most remarkable features, however, is their amazing sense of smell, which allows them to detect both cold and hot scents in just about any weather condition. English springer spaniels serve as professional sniffer dogs all over the world, serving in many different search capacities. They help detect explosives, drugs, illegal immigrants, bumblebee nests, and missing persons, and can even sniff out blood and superbugs.

10. Belgian Malinois

2 beutiful Belgian Malinois in the forest

The keen sense of smell, trainability, and unyielding focus define the Belgian Malinois.


With optimal conditions, a Belgian Malinois can detect odors up to a quarter of a mile away, making them one of the top dog breeds with the strongest and best sense of smell. They have mobile nostrils that can sample smells from various directions, helping them to zero in on their target with precision. These incredibly talented sniffers can also easily distinguish between different scents, pinpointing the exact location of the odor. In fact, when properly trained, a Belgian Malinois can excel in scent detection with 95% to 99% accuracy! In addition, Belgian Malinois have a marvelous scent memory and can effortlessly recognize and recall smells that they encountered in the past. 

9. Labrador Retriever

Smiling labrador dog in the city park portrait. Smiling and looking up, looking away


Labrador retriever

is one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States.


Labrador retrievers have rather large noses, which provides more room for detecting scents with their many olfactory scent receptors. They also have large olfactory bulbs in their brains, which further enhances their ability to process and detect various aromas. Labrador retrievers are extremely successful hunting dogs, as well as guide and therapy dogs. Their strong sense of smell helps these amazing dogs detect dangers and changes in their environment and in people under their care. In addition, labs make excellent tracking dogs and medical detectors due to their strong sense of smell and their responsive trainability. Labrador retrievers can be trained to sniff out blood sugar changes, tumors, and even seizures before they occur.

8. German Shepherd

Security Dog and Handler

German shepherds are commonly utilized in the military, police work, and security detail.

©steved_np3/ via Getty Images

With a remarkable 225 million scent receptors, it’s no surprise that the German shepherd is such a skilled sniffer! German shepherds are amazing search and rescue dogs, their sharp sense of smell allowing them to detect faint odors or even smells that are days old. They are also popular as police dogs, their sense of smell helping to detect explosives and drugs. In addition, many German shepherds serve as remarkable service dogs. They can be trained to detect subtle changes that indicate diseases or conditions like diabetes and cancer. 

7. Bluetick Coonhound

Bluetick Coonhound laying in the grass.

Athletic and intelligent dogs, bluetick coonhounds need a job to keep their minds engaged.

©Taylor Walter/

The bluetick coonhound gets its name from the distinctive black ticking pattern on its smooth white coat. This unique ticking pattern makes the dog dark blue in color. Originating in Louisiana, bluetick coonhounds have a unique ancestry, with genetics ranging from black and tan Virginia foxhounds, English foxhounds, American foxhounds, cur dogs, and even the French Grand Bleu de Gascogne. Muscular but sleek, bluetick coonhounds have an excellent sense of smell. They are excellent tracking dogs and will tree just about any small animal that they can sniff out. 

6. Treeing Walker Coonhound

A Treeing Walker Coonhound dog outdoors.

The AKC considers the treeing Walker coonhound a “genuine American favorite”.

©Mary Swift/

A breed that embodies speed, agility, and an unmatched cold nose, the treeing Walker coonhound has one of the strongest and best senses of smell around. These remarkable dogs are “cold nose” hunting dogs, meaning they excel in cold weather. They can track and retrieve game even in harsh winter conditions! In addition, treeing Walker coonhounds shine when it comes to hunting cougars and bobcats — animals that are typically harder to track animals in the cold.

5. Redbone Coonhound

Redbone Coonhound dog swimming.

The redbone coonhound is one of the very few dog breeds that has webbed feet.

©videodet/iStock via Getty Images

With their velvety red coats and adorable floppy ears, redbone coonhounds are agile in both mountainous areas as well as marshlands. In fact, they even have webbed feet, which gives them a huge advantage over other hunting breeds when it comes to water. In addition, redbone coonhounds are excellent pack hunters who exhibit remarkable teamwork and tenacity when pursuing all sorts of prey animals. They have an incredible sense of smell that allows them to track and tree animals of all sizes, from raccoons to mountain lions and bears. Redbone coonhounds are descended from the stunning red fox hounds many Scottish immigrants brought to the United States in the early nineteenth century.

4. Black and Tan Coonhound

Black and Tan Coonhound - strolling on the beach

When “off-duty”, black and tan coonhounds are friendly, laidback companions.


Known as a “real American original”, the black and tan coonhound also has an incredible sense of smell. Many of these dogs can even continue tracking prey long after the scent trail has gone cold! Developed in the United States, the ancestry of the black and tan coonhound originates from the black and tan Virginia foxhound, the Bloodhound, and the Talbot hound. These incredible sniffers are famous as raccoon-hunting dogs and excel at tracking during the late night hours. Their excellent sense of smell is also utilized in tracking anything from bobcats and opossums to cougars, bears, and even wild pigs.

3. Beagle 

Old hunting dog sniff grass, walking beagle.

Beagles can differentiate between smells they’ve encountered over extended periods of time.

©Andrii Zastrozhnov/iStock via Getty Images

One of the top breeds with the strongest and best sense of smell, beagles are medium-sized scent hounds with an astounding 225 million olfactory receptors. These incredible canines can even be trained to detect various types of cancers in humans! Beagles have a sophisticated nasal structure with intricate scent receptors tucked within their nostrils. This complex arrangement heightens their sensitivity to odors, which optimizes their exposure to odor molecules. Beagles can smell and detect odors from miles away and also have an astonishing scent memory. With their remarkable olfactory abilities, beagles can distinguish between individuals, locate objects solely by scent, and identify diseases like cancer. They can also detect humans, food, and other animals, uncover drugs and explosives, and even expose termite infestations in homes.

2. Basset Hound

basset hound

Basset hounds are laid-back dogs with warm and friendly personalities.


The basset hound was meticulously developed as a hunting dog with unrivaled olfactory abilities. Dating back to the sixth century in France, basset hounds have distinct bodies that are low to the ground and long ears. These unique physical features enhance their olfactory abilities, as their proximity to the ground and elongated ears collect scent particles from the ground. In addition, their wrinkled skin and loose drooping lips also act as additional built-in scent traps, allowing them to unravel even the subtlest of scents with precision. Once a basset hound catches a whiff of something interesting, it is nearly impossible to stop them from tracking it down!

1. Bloodhound

Portrait of an adorable a brown bloodhound on a sunny day

The olfactory center in a bloodhound is larger than any other dog!


Many people call these big pups “a nose with a dog attached” due to their incredible tracking abilities. That is because bloodhound dogs have the strongest and best sense of smell of any domestic dog breed! A bloodhound can discern smells with a precision that surpasses our own human senses by at least a thousand times. In fact, their large and extremely sensitive scent membranes contain an astounding 230 million olfactory scent receptors! As humans, we have around 5 to 10 million olfactory cells — in other words, a bloodhound has a mind-boggling 40 times more than what we possess. Their sense of smell is so incredibly acute that researchers have found that bloodhounds can even distinguish between two related humans based on their genetics! 

Summary of the 15 Dog Breeds with the Strongest and Best Sense of Smell

RankingDog Breed
2Basset hound
4Black and tan coonhound
5Redbone coonhound
6Treeing Walker coonhound
7Bluetick coonhound
8German shepherd
9Labrador retriever
10Belgian Malinois
11English springer spaniel
12German shorthaired pointer
13Plott hound
14English foxhound
15American English coonhound

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About the Author

Kellianne Matthews is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on anthrozoology, conservation, human-animal relationships, and animal behavior. Kellianne has been writing and researching animals for over ten years and has decades of hands-on experience working with a variety of different animals. She holds a Master’s Degree from Brigham Young University, which she earned in 2017. A resident of Utah, Kellianne enjoys creating, exploring and learning new things, analyzing movies, caring for animals, and playing with her cats.

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