Peanut-Sniffing Poodles & Cash-Crazy Cockers

A nosy dog can catch criminals and help kids.
By Julia Lane, June 2009, Updated February 2015

When my dogs sniff at a tree or dirt patch with special enthusiasm, I wonder what kind of information they’re getting. Their amazing noses allow them to “see” a world that’s practically foreign to us humans.

Over the years, smart people have found ways to harness that nose power to help detect drugs, cancer and illegal DVDs. Now they’re training Cocker Spaniels to sniff out cash-carrying criminals and Poodles to detect peanuts to help kids with life-threatening allergic reactions.

When you take your dog for a walk, is it more like going for a sniff? Does s/he put her nose to the ground or prefer air scenting? What's the strangest thing your dog's nose has discovered?

Julia Lane owns Spot On K9 Sports, a training facility in the Chicago area, and offers online dog-sport coaching. She is the author of several travel books, and her byline has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets & Writers and elsewhere.