How Far Can A Husky Smell? (What Factors Affect It?)

Like most dog breeds, Huskies have a very keen sense of smell, but how far can a husky smell, and what factors affect it?

Huskies can smell scents as far as 12 miles (almost 20km) away under perfect conditions, but in practice, it is likely to be much smaller than this. Factors like wind speed and direction, weather conditions, and the types of scents that are nearby all play a key role in how far they can smell.

You’ve come to the right place to learn more about huskies and their sense of smell.

How Huskies Can Smell So Far Away

Like most other dogs, Huskies have a much larger part of their brain devoted to analyzing smells that is roughly 40 times greater than ours.

They also have many times more olfactory receptors in their nose – we have around 6 million, whereas dogs can have up to 300 million. Huskies, like other dogs, also have a unique organ that humans don’t, known as Jacobsen’s organ, which serves as a secondary olfactory system.

All of these factors mean that a dog’s sense of smell is roughly 1,000 to 10,000 times better than ours.

Huskies and other dog breeds use smell to paint an image of the world around them and communicate with other dogs. With a single smell, a husky can assess whether another dog is male or female, their mood, and much more.

Some dogs can even detect medical issues in people with just a single sniff.

How Far Can A Husky Smell A Person?

Huskies can pick up scents from up to 12 miles (almost 20km) away, but they aren’t able to identify a person from this far away.

A husky walking through a stream of water smelling the water

In practice, a husky can identify you from around 40 feet away if they know your scent, meaning they could smell you before they see you.

How Does Husky Smell Compare To Other Dogs?

Huskies have a keen sense of smell, but it isn’t one of the strongest when you compare them to other dogs.

Bloodhounds are renowned for their sense of smell and are used for search and rescue and hunting throughout the world because of it.

They have over 300 million scent receptors with one of the largest olfactory areas among all dog breeds, and they can follow scents for over 130 miles.

Can Huskies Remember Smells?

Huskies can also remember smells well thanks to their keen sense of smell and olfactory system.

This is one of the main reasons why huskies that escape from their yards can find their way home – they are able to remember the scents of their home and track them back.

If your husky has lived with you for a long time, they will fully grasp your scent and never forget it.

What Factors Affect How Far A Husky Can Smell?

The 12-mile figure assumes ideal conditions, but in reality, there will always be factors that limit this number.

These are all related to the conditions nearby, like wind speed and direction, rain, and how many competing smells there are.

Wind Speed & Direction

Wind speed and direction play a pivotal role in how far your husky will be able to smell.

If your husky is downwind from the scent – that is, the wind is blowing towards your husky from the origin of the smell – then they will be able to smell it further away.

If there has ever been a fire near where you live, you’ll understand how wind speed and direction can send the smoke towards or away from you from miles around. The same theory applies to huskies smelling scents, but they are able to pick up scents much easier than us.

Alongside wind direction is wind speed. Wind direction is obviously the most important, but wind speed affects how quickly and far the scent travels.

Rain & Humidity

Rain and humidity can cause havoc with any scents in the air.

Heavy rain forces scent to the ground, which can make it more difficult for a husky to smell them.

A husky smelling the floor in a field of snow

On the other hand, light rain can freshen old tracks and make it easier for scents to follow.

How Many Smells Are Nearby

Competing smells play a significant role in how far huskies can smell.

These smells can quickly overpower the olfactory system and make it impossible for your husky to pick out one specific smell.

The advice given to scent dogs, as per the CVGRC, is not to track if there are nearby smells that you can smell yourself.

Can Huskies Be Used As Scent Dogs?

In theory, huskies could be used as scent dogs as they have a keen sense of smell, but in practice, they are never used for this purpose.

There are two main reasons for this:

1. Hard To Work With

Huskies are notoriously hard to work with because they are stubborn and independent, as seen across many Spitz-type dogs.

This might be confusing because huskies are a working breed, and many huskies today are still used in a working environment, but it’s important to remember the type of role they fulfill.

Huskies are sled dogs, which means they are great at working in a pack to pull sleds using their high-energy drive.

This doesn’t translate well to working jobs where they need to follow commands quickly and repeatedly, especially when you consider how stubborn and difficult to train they are.

2. Other Dogs Have Better Scent Detection

Remember the bloodhound from before?

A bloodhound sat down on a grass field
Bloodhounds are renowned for their sense of smell.

Well, they aren’t the only dog with a stronger sense of smell than the husky.

Dogs like the beagle, dachshund, and Bassett hound are popular scenthounds with incredible senses of smell, even when compared to an ‘average’ dog like the husky.

They are also easier to work with, which makes things much simpler.

What About Hunting?

Many scenthounds are used for tracking purposes in hunting, while other hunting dogs focus on retrieval of game or chasing down prey.

The case is still the same, however. Huskies might have a high prey drive, but their stubborn personality and lack of obedience make it very hard to rely on them in a hunting situation.

Can Huskies Smell Cancer?

Some dogs have been able to detect the odor signatures of certain types of cancer, like breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer.

However, there is currently no evidence to suggest that huskies are capable of this.

Labrador retrievers and Australian Shepherds are examples of dogs that are used for this application.

In Summary

Like most dogs, huskies have a very keen sense of smell, so it shouldn’t be as surprising that they can detect smells from up to 12 miles away.

I also find comfort in the fact that huskies will remember how you smell for their whole lives if you live with them or spend a significant amount of time with them.

They might not be the best scent dogs, like bloodhounds, for example, but given their working background as sled dogs, it’s no surprise that they aren’t well suited for this role.

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About The Author

Caitlin is the owner and lead writer for The Malamute Mom. She has over 10 years of experience with Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies. She is currently working on getting her PhD in materials science but continues to write for The Malamute Mom in her spare time.

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