Skip to Content

Did You Know Dogs Can Follow Scent Through the Air?

[frame src=”” target=”_self” width=”620″ height=”398″ alt=”Baxter the boxer mix” align=”center” prettyphoto=”false”]
Note: Julia Thomson is a regular contributor to That Mutt. Find all of Julia’s posts here.

I love watching Baxter’s nose work.

We’re pretty sure he has some hound dog in him somewhere because dude can sing a pretty song and he loves to sniff.

A few weeks ago, we were heading along the path to the back field when all of a sudden he stopped, lifted his nose in the air and sniffed deeply.

He veered to the right, head up, nose twitching. He worked his way over to the gravel pile on the edge of the fence line. He climbed to the top to better catch the air and sniffed some more.

Then he trotted down the pile and stuck his head through the wire fence. Obviously whatever he smelled was on the other side.

Eventually he worked his way around the fence into the meadow behind the barn.


Soon enough he’d brought me to what he smelled—a fresh wild turkey carcass courtesy of the local coyotes.

All that was left were a few feathers.

Baxter the boxer mix tracked a turkey carcass

From more than 200 yards away, Baxter had caught the scent and followed it through the air.

I find the concept of air scenting fascinating. We’re all familiar with the idea of dogs following a trail laid down on the ground, but dogs can also follow the scent cone that’s carried on the air—or even through water.

Baxter does not have a strong work drive, so I don’t think we’ll be enlisting for search and rescue any time soon. However, I’d like to find some nose exercises to interest and challenge him—and educate myself.

Any suggestions?

Does your dog follow a trail on the ground or through the air?

Do you do any nose work with your dog?

Did you know dogs can track scents through the air?

Julia maintains the blog Home on 129 Acres where she writes about country living and DIY renovating.

Sign up to receive That Mutt’s training tips & more in my twice-weekly newsletter:


Tuesday 10th of May 2016

We love watching Stetson in K9 Nosework class. Out of all the dogs in class he has the most enthusiastic reactions when he catches the scent. He was so excited one time he did an endo on his front two paws!

Julia at Home on 129 Acres

Wednesday 11th of May 2016

Watching them catch the scent and then concentrate to follow it is really neat.

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 10th of May 2016

Haha! Good boy, Stetson!


Monday 9th of May 2016

My dog has always loved sniffing things out, and she will pick up scents through the air or trails on the ground when we're out and about.

We are halfway through our first Nosework class and LOVE it. My dog has so much fun and can hardly wait her turn to get back into the search area. I've never seen her get so excited about anything in her whole life!

We learned in class that dogs can pick up scents on the molecular level. How cool is that?!

Julia at Home on 129 Acres

Tuesday 10th of May 2016

It's so great to find something that your dog loves that much. And it sounds like you're both learning things.

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 9th of May 2016

Have you read "What the Dog Knows" by Cat Warren? I really liked it. You would probably like it.