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How Long Do Dogs Remember A Scent?

How long do dogs remember your scent? Do dogs ever forget people?

One incredible feature about our furry companions is that dogs remember their owner’s scent forever. Dogs have complex memories triggered by all five senses, most prominently smell. A dog’s memory is so good that they even remember specific events and emotions connected to other people.

how long do dogs remember a scent
How long do dogs remember a scent?

Dogs have excellent memory due to their smelling ability, meaning you do not have to worry about your pet forgetting you after a family vacation to the beach. But what if you separate from your dog for years? How long does it take for a dog to forget you?

No matter how long you leave, a dog always recognizes your scent, even if they have only met you once before! So how do dogs have such great senses of smell? Keep reading to find out.

Your Dog’s Nose Is Important

While humans rely on our eyes to see, dogs are a little more unique. Canines use both vision and smell to interpret their surroundings. For example, a person may walk out their front door and look at the green grass, but a dog will smell it first.

Neurologically, dogs are better equipped to notice smells than the average human. Dogs have over 100 million sensory receptors inside their nasal cavity. People only have about 6 million. That is quite the difference!

Dogs even developed different brains meant for handling scents. The part of the brain that detects odor is over 40 times larger in dogs than in people. Due to these genetic differences, dogs smell up to 10,00 times better than humans.

catahoula leopard close up shot
Catahoula Leopard close up shot under the sun.

A Wet Nose Is Best

Ever wonder why your dog’s nose gets damp sometimes? The condensation helps enhance their already spectacular smelling ability. A dog’s nose smells best when the outer nose and nasal cavity are wet because it helps scent particles stick.

Some dogs even lick their nose if it gets too dry. They do not want to miss out on a scent.

dog nose and whisker
Close-up shot of dog nose and whisker.

How Dogs Remember a Scent?

Your dog’s incredible olfactory system increases the ability to smell and remember scents. 

Dogs have hundreds of millions more olfactory receptors inside their nasal cavity than humans.

Additionally, dogs have an extra-special tool that relates to the sense of smell. The vomeronasal organ (also known as Jacobsen’s organ) is found in amphibians, reptiles, and mammals like dogs. It is located inside the nasal cavity, opening into the roof of your dog’s mouth.

This organ is almost like a second olfactory system for your canine!

The nerves in this organ do not detect ordinary smells a human might notice. Instead, they respond to scents with no odor, otherwise known as undetectable.

Because of the vomeronasal organ, canines are excellent at noticing and remembering many different scents.

German Shepherd smiles
German Shepherd smiles upon seeing his owner.

How To Know When a Dog Remembers a Scent?

Wonder how to spot if your dog remembers a scent? Here are some typical behaviors a canine displays when they pick up on a familiar scent.

  • Your dog begins to sniff around the person, area, or object.
  • Your dog begins tilting their head.
  • Your dog starts wagging their tail or jumping.

Dogs may not recall specific details about each scent, but they will associate the smell with a good or bad experience.

dog excited
The Dalmatian was excited to see her owner!

Other Ways Dogs Remember People

A dog’s expert sense of smell is the most reliable way they remember people and objects. Dogs also use other senses like sight and hearing to aid their olfactory system.

Facial Recognition

Dogs also rely on visuals for memory as humans do. Though not to the same extent.

Scientists have proven that dogs recognize their owners’ faces based on visuals alone. However, visual memory for dogs appears only invoked by people they see on a regular basis. Your dog likely will not recognize someone they only met a few times without the scent’s help.

fluffy cavapoo puppy with white chest looks at owner
Bicolor and Tricolour Cavapoo puppies have splashes of white and other shades. Cute!

Voice Recognition

Some studies also note that dogs can remember certain voices. This ability makes sense because dogs are more responsive to specific tones and inflections instead of words. 

Likewise, if you and a stranger are standing out of your dog’s sight, and you both call your dog’s name, your dog will most likely recognize your voice and come to find you instead of the stranger. 

talking with a dog
A man talking with his dog.

How Long Do Dogs Remember Your Scent?

So, how long do dogs remember your scent? Here is some great news—your dog will never forget you. Canines remember people their entire lives. So, even if you are apart for two days or two years, a dog always knows who you are.

A dog’s olfactory system, boosted by their excellent visual and audio recognition skills, means they remember people, places, and objects. Even if they do not remember a specific experience, dogs share many cues letting others know they remember.

two Pitbulls and owner
The owner checks his two Pitbulls’ coats for any skin issues.

How Long Do Dogs Remember Another Dog Scent?

Can dogs remember each other as well as remember humans? Yes, dogs recognize one another through scent, visual, and auditory senses. Frequent socialization helps dogs remember their furry friends for a lifetime!

Signs That Dogs Remember Each Other

Bumping into another dog on a walk will not necessarily trigger your dog’s memory. However, if you and your canine run into a familiar dog—a friend’s pet or one from the park—they certainly remember each other.

Many signs your dog remembers another dog mirrors reconnecting with a familiar person. The dogs will sniff each other to help unlock that memory. Your dog may start tilting its head and become excited when they realize the familiar scent.

Here are a few additional clues that show your dog remembers another dog:

  • Whining
  • Jumping
  • Tail wagging
  • Sniffing
  • Perked ears
  • Rolling around
  • Playing together
  • Spinning in circles
  • Excited behavior
French Bulldogs playing
Two French Bulldogs running and playing.

Dog Memory & Scent

Dogs store different memories in their brains like humans do. Dogs also have short-term and long-term memory.

Short-term memory is what we think about right now, at this moment. Scientists call it short-term because it only lasts a few minutes at most before we forget.

Compared to humans, dogs have poor short-term memory. A dog’s short-term memory lasts anywhere from five seconds to two minutes.

Long-term memory is a little more complex. For dogs, long-term memory is what they rely on after the time short-term memory ends. Our dogs store these memories in their brains, holding onto them for a few minutes or their entire lives.

A dog’s long-term memory relies on their ability to smell, as they use scent to remember familiar people, dogs, and places.

beagle with his sense of smell
Dogs have incredible sense of smell.

Dog Memory Loss

As your dog gets older, unfortunately, it may experience some memory loss. Older dogs are susceptible to neurological problems like Cognitive Dysfunctions Syndrome (CDS). Similar to dementia in humans, dogs with CDS forget what they already know, including familiar people and learned behaviors.

You can take preventative measures to protect your dog from memory loss, like a healthy diet and annual vet checkups.

an old dog
An old dog looking at the camera.

How to Train Your Dog to Detect Scents?

Some owners are interested in training their dogs to remember certain scents for safety reasons. Training your dog to detect scents can take between two and six months. Some pay for classes while others choose training at home.

Here are some tips for training your dog to detect scents:

  • Use your dog’s favorite toy as a practice scent.
  • Set the right tone before scent training.
  • Train the eyes and ears too.
  • Practice by hiding items around the house.
why does my dog chew his toys on me
Why does my dog chew his toys on me?

Dog Breeds With a Great Sense of Smell

Looking for a dog with the best sense of smell? Try one of these ten dog breeds known for their excellent sniffing abilities.

  • Bloodhound
  • German Shepherd
  • Beagle
  • Basset Hound
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Labrador Retriever
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • Coonhound
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Pointer
Secret Service dogs
Secret Service dogs: Breeds explained (with photos)

Your Dog Remembers Your Scent!

Since dogs never forget their owner’s scent, you can spend less time worrying and more time enjoying your vacation or work trip. Though, that does not mean they will not miss you.

Dogs sometimes get upset when their favorite humans leave for a while. So make sure to leave out something with your scent for your canine companion to comfort them while you are gone. Or better yet—have them stay with a friend.

That means more new smells to remember!