Can Dogs Smell if Humans Are Related?

There are many claims about dogs’ incredible sense of smell. Some even claim that dogs have the ability to smell if humans are related. But is this really true? Is it possible that dogs can smell family members?

The truth is that dogs cannot smell whether people are related. In order to smell whether a human is a family member, dogs would need to be able to smell, recognize, and understand the DNA traces present. While there is no doubt that dogs have a sophisticated sense of smell, there is no solid evidence that dogs can smell DNA.

While this makes sense, it is also important to remember that people who come from the same household have similar smells about them. These are mainly kitchen smells, detergents, and the like.

Therefore, it is very possible that dogs can smell if you are a family living together in one house.

But if a family member from another house with different smells came to visit, the dog would not be able to smell that the people are related.

Can Dogs Smell DNA Compounds?

No, dogs cannot smell DNA compounds. This is what research conducted in 2019 has revealed.

This means that dogs can’t smell whether two people are related under laboratory conditions.

And if they can’t sniff out DNA compounds, they can’t smell human relatives either.

Conversely, however, dogs can recognize and distinguish family members by smell alone. However, this involves individual body odor.

The Sense of Smell in Dogs

If there’s one thing that can’t be denied, it’s that the dog nose has superpowers.

Dogs can smell the most unusual and extraordinary things that our human noses cannot detect.

What Can Dogs Smell?

For example, dogs can detect dead bodies and even smell underwater.

Whether it’s the natural chemicals in a diabetic’s breath or the smell of fear-related chemicals on our skin pores.

Whether it’s an approaching thunderstorm from far away or every single ingredient in your favorite cookies. Dogs can sniff out things that are odorless to us.

This is probably why many assume that there is nothing in the world that curious dogs can’t sniff out.

I’ve heard people say that there is nothing dogs can’t smell. Or to put it another way, they can smell everything! At least that’s what some dog lovers think.

Can Dogs Smell That Humans Are Related?

But let’s separate the facts from the myths.

It is true that dogs have an amazing sense of smell. But dogs can’t tell if people are related just by smelling.

However, some people believe that this is the case. For example, when a new baby comes into the house, some people think the dog can smell that it is a family member.

But it isn’t. And dogs can be dangerously jealous of newborns. They don’t necessarily treat them like a family member.

As you probably know, people who are related have many similarities in their DNA. The DNA traces in their blood, hair follicles, saliva, and other body cells are almost identical.

So for dogs to smell that people are related, they would have to be able to sniff out the genetic material in their bodies. And more than that, they would have to draw the right conclusions.

But they can’t.

Reliable evidence shows that dogs cannot smell the genetic material in our cells. Obviously, there is a limit to what dogs can sniff out.

Our four-legged friends simply make friends with people from the same household and learn to distinguish them by smell.

However, it is assumed that a dog knows that people are related when it spends almost all of its time with the same faces.

When dogs get used to being with the same people, they assume that their favorite people are related. It’s as simple as that.

How Dogs Tell Family Members Apart

You may be aware that everyone has a unique natural scent. We all have a distinctive smell.

It’s a lot like fingerprints. Probably no one else in the world has the same fingerprints as you do.

And so it is with your natural smell. It is a genetically determined odor that remains on our skin pores and clothing.

And when we sweat, even just a little bit, that odor is fully present in the sweat.

Think of this particular smell as part of your unique identity. Not even identical twins have the same natural odor.

Researchers from the Czech Republic even found in a startling study that well-trained dogs can tell twins apart just by their natural smell.

Our noses are not strong enough to sniff out and process another person’s natural scent. But dogs are capable of doing just that.

Even on days when you haven’t bathed in your favorite perfume, your dog can sniff you out from a distance. He can tell you’re nearby by your natural scent.

Their powerful sense of smell enables them to sniff out even the faintest odors. Dogs have millions of olfactory receptor cells in their nasal mucosa. About 300 million, to be exact.

In contrast, we only have about 6 million of these receptor cells.

Thanks to olfactory receptors, our four-legged friends can detect all kinds of odors. Including the almost odorless natural smells that our bodies give off.

When your dog is near a family member, his olfactory cells detect that person’s natural scent. Remember, everyone in the family has their own natural scent.

Here’s the most interesting part.

The dog’s nose and brain work closely together to determine which scent belongs to whom.

The dog’s receptor cells send the person’s scent information to the brain for processing. Similar to the human brain, dogs also have a special part of the brain called the olfactory bulb.

The main function of the olfactory bulb is to process the smells of people, along with many other smells.

The olfactory bulb of our four-legged friends is up to 40 times larger than ours. So you can imagine how much olfactory information is processed in your dog’s brain.

Once the olfactory bulb has done its job, the dog’s brain stores the scent of the family member as part of its olfactory memory. These are basically smell memories.

In other words, your dog’s brain stores the unique scent of each family member. Your dog knows which smell belongs to whom because it’s stored in his brain.

How a Dog’s Brain Responds to the Familiar Smell of a Family Member

Have you ever wondered why your beloved family dog gets so excited when a family member is around?

Well, there’s a good reason for that.

Research has shown that your dog’s brain has another useful region, the caudate nucleus.

The caudate nucleus is flooded with reward signals that are activated when something positive happens. For example, when your dog sees you give him a treat, the caudate nucleus lights up with joy.

And when a dog smells a familiar family member, the activation of the caudate nucleus is significantly higher, according to studies.

That means your dog’s brain triggers more reward responses when he smells the scent of a familiar family member. That’s where the excitement comes from.

You can train your dog to sniff out another person’s scent, and he should remember it for many years.

This is a good mental stimulation exercise. It’s a good way to familiarize your dog with the smell of a person who doesn’t live with you but may visit often.

The good thing is that it only takes a few repetitions for our dogs to acquire a new smell. The training process is quite simple:

First, get a scent sample. This can be a simple item like the person’s favorite T-shirt. Be sure to handle the sample with gloves so it doesn’t become contaminated with your scent.

Put the T-shirt in a small plastic bag and place it in an open space. Make sure you have a treat handy.

Take your dog on a leash and lead him to where the bag is. Bring him closer to the bag.

As soon as he starts sniffing the t-shirt, reward him with the treat and praise him. With regular scent training, your dog will eventually get used to this target scent.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Dogs Tell if You Have Siblings?

The short answer is no because dogs cannot smell DNA traces to determine if two people are siblings.

Can Dogs Tell Family Members Apart?

Yes, they can. Dogs use their strong sense of smell to tell family members apart.

Can Dogs Smell DNA Compounds?

No, they cannot. There is currently no scientific evidence that dogs are able to sniff out DNA compounds.

Can Dogs Smell Another Person On You?

Yes, they can. Dogs store all familiar smells in their brains. If you have a new smell on you, they know something is wrong with your normal scent.

Conclusion: Can Dogs Smell if Humans Are Related?

Although we’d like to think that dogs can smell other human family members, that’s not entirely true.

Yes, they can detect the smell of individuals, and they can also tell if people live in the same household based on the smell.

But dogs do not have the ability to smell that people are related.