What Our Dog Really “Nose”

By Amanda Ringnalda and Kelly Taylor of Sama Dog




We all know our dogs have an amazing sense of scent. Just try and quietly eat some cheese; bet you he’ll be there faster than you can say “timberdoodle” (yes that is an actual name of a cheese!)

Dogs have this remarkable organ called the vomeronasal organ (VNO). The VNO detects odors and pheromones; this is why your furry friend loves to sniff on walks. With every lamp post he sniffs, he is catching up on the recent gossip via pee-mail. He can tell what Boomer has recently eaten, if Gracie is stressed and even if Rusty has had the dreaded snip snip! It seems that a 70% sniff and 30% walk outing is equivalent to us humans spending an entire day on Facebook! 

What is really fascinating about our furry friends is what they actually know! How many times have you heard the phrase, “I swear my dog is like a little person, he knows what I’m thinking!” or “You know, I’m sure Noodle knew we were going to the vet” or “Tinkerbell can always sense when it’s bath time!” And how about when we’re sad, angry or grieving? Isn’t it amazing how they just know? They sense our energy and our intentions. Wonder if they can actually see auras… wouldn’t that be the coolest thing?! We know they can sense diseases like Cancer, sniff out drugs and even find missing people. It’s remarkable! This deserves more credit than we give them. Most of us couldn’t even sniff out a moldy piece of timberdoodle under the couch cushion! 

But do we really give a dog credit for what he “nose”?

Think about it – we choose our dog’s food, their beds, their playmates, where they sleep, their treats, everything, yet do we really know what is best for them? Yes we love them, and yes we do our very best for them (we know dogs who eat better than their owners!), but what would happen if we gave them the “pawsibility” to choose for themselves?

At times when your dog is sick, how often have you thought, “I wish they could tell me what they need”?  What if you could give them the opportunity to do so via self-selection? Wild dogs and wolves naturally seek out certain berries and herbs to help them purge and rid the body of things it no longer needs or that are causing discomfort or illness. Our domestic dogs are no different.IMG_8922

There is a growing community of Caninepharmacognosy (Canine: dog, Pharma: medical, Cognosy: knowing) practitioners. When it comes to caninepharmacognosy, our dogs truly have the opportunity to self-select what they need to help them feel better. For instance, dogs may instinctively choose ginger oil when they have had an upset stomach. In the Ayurveda world, ginger is one of the top natural medicinal remedies, especially for digestion, so to observe as they knowingly self-select is fascinating. Dogs are naturally drawn to healing remedies – grasses such as wheatgrass, macerates such as arnica, essential oils such as lavender and water essences such as valerian water. They choose to inhale these remedies or ask for them to be applied topically on the area of discomfort or on the femoral artery where there is no hair, allowing the oil to get into the blood stream quicker.IMG_1458

Now we aren’t saying to start experimenting with essential oils without proper guidance – this is what a licensed practitioner offers and you should learn more from a seasoned practitioner. One great resource we recommend is Caroline Ingraham’s book How to Heal Your Dog. But you can definitely start on the path to having your dog self-select on some of the things he needs. Take coconut oil, for example – within the past few years the world has gone crazy over this stuff. There are hundreds of ways to use this natural healing remedy, but also be wary of too much of a good thing. Some dogs may not digest this well or may not actually need it, so why not try it via self-selection? Put a small amount on a plate or in their feeding bowl without mixing it in their food. Do they eat it? If yes, try it again in a few days. If not, try it again later. If they don’t need it, they won’t eat it.

The same thing goes for certain foods. Sometimes we assume our dogs are picky eaters, but this is not always the case. Dogs eat with their noses so if they continually refuse a certain food, they might not need the ingredients. Check what’s in there, learn to be a label reader and try out a new protein/food. 

Go on, try giving your buddy the choice to exercise what he “nose.” It’ll be fun for both of you and he will love you for it.bodhi 2