Is it true that dogs can sense us coming home before we’re even in eye shot?
Many pet parents feel like their dog is always at the door waiting for them when they arrive home. But, is your dog really waiting for you at the door all day, or are their enhanced sense of smell and hearing giving them a heads up that you’re on your way home?
Keep reading to learn more about how far dogs can smell, how far dogs can hear, and how this may help them pinpoint that you’re on your way home to them before you walk through your front door.
How Far Can Dogs Smell?
Unlike humans, who rely heavily on their vision, dogs primarily depend on sight and smell to communicate and survey their surroundings.
According to the Veterinary Centers of America, dogs have more than 100 million sensory receptors in their nose compared to the six million receptors in the human nose. Incredibly, the section of a dog’s brain dedicated to interpreting odors is about 40 times larger than a human’s.
As a result, dogs are estimated to smell 1,000 to 10,000 times better than humans. So, we know canine super sniffers can interpret odors better than we can, but how far can dogs smell?
It’s estimated that dogs can smell at least one to two miles away. However, this varies depending on the breed, specific scent they’re trying to detect, individual genetics, and even training.
For example, many working dogs receive training to track animals and identify certain substances, which can improve their ability to smell certain scents.
On the other hand, different breeds, like bloodhounds, will almost always have a more enhanced sense of smell when compared to a dog breed not designed for scent tracking, such as a brachycephalic dog with a short nasal cavity.
Weather can also impact how far a dog can smell, with favorable conditions being against the wind.
Overall, you can expect your furry friend to be able to smell a much farther distance, approximately one to two miles away.
How Far Can Dogs Hear?
Dogs primarily depend on their sight and smell to navigate life, but their hearing is nothing to sniff at.
Dogs and people hear low sound frequencies, estimated at around 20 Hertz. However, dogs hear high-frequency sounds at least three times better than people. This enhanced hearing for high-frequency sounds is why a silent dog whistle alerts your dog but doesn’t sound like anything to you.
Something else that improves a dog’s hearing is how they use their ear muscles. Dogs have over a dozen muscles that let them lift, tilt, and rotate each ear individually, allowing them to hone in on where sounds come from. This is one of the reasons why you may see a dog tilt their head to certain sounds.
So, how far can dogs hear?
Dogs not only hear a more extensive range of sounds and frequencies but it’s estimated that they hear sounds as far as a kilometer or a little over half a mile away.
This capability explains why dogs are more sensitive to loud sounds like thunderstorms or fireworks. Dogs may even bark or howl at sounds we can’t hear or noises that aren’t very loud (to us), indicating their anxiety about an impending storm or warning you of a perceived threat.
Can My Dog Sense When I’m Coming Home?
We’ve established that dogs have a fantastic sense of smell and hearing range, unlike anything humans have or can replicate with technology. While many pet parents understand that dogs have enhanced senses, they may still need to be convinced that a dog can sense them coming home.
Here are several reasons why your dog may be able to sense that you’re on your way home.
Over time, your dog has likely connected a particular sound with you coming home, which may set their “welcome home!” ritual in motion. Since dogs can hear over half a mile away, they may detect your car driving into your neighborhood and recognize your car's specific sounds as you drive home.
But what about pet parents who use public transportation? Your dog may connect the sound of the local bus or identify a different sound, such as your neighbor who comes home at 5:30 p.m. to your daily arrival at 5:35 p.m. More obvious sounds, like the garage door opening or you closing your car door, will also alert your dog that you are home and at their disposal for playtime!
Naturally, a dog’s excellent sense of smell may help them identify cues that you’re coming home too, such as detecting your scent or the scent of your vehicle.
If all else fails, your dog may be waiting patiently for you and notice your car as you park in your typical parking spot, tipping them off that their favorite person is finally home.