Your Boxer’s Secret Super Power

Though they have a reputation as clowns, Boxers are gifted at scent work.

As a breed the Boxer has a very good sense of smell and can track a scent trail left on the ground. The Boxer can even air scent, picking a smell off the breeze and following it.

The Boxer Nose

The Boxer nose is a finely tuned instrument that leaves the human sense of smell for dead.

According to Dr Frank Rosell, who authored Secrets of the Snout: The Dog’s Incredible Nose, the average dog’s nose is 100 000 to 1 million times more sensitive than his owner’s. In some breeds, like the Bloodhound, the nose is an astounding 10 to 100 million times stronger.

Your dog has about 300 million olfactory receptors, many times more than you do.

While your brain is larger than your Boxer’s, the specific part of the brain that interprets smell is much larger in your dog.

This means your pup can pick up very faint scents that are well below your level of awareness, as you no doubt observe every time you’re out for a walk. To put it in context, your Boxer can detect the equivalent of half a teaspoon of sugar in an Olympic-size swimming pool.

Dogs can be trained to sniff out almost anything, including:

  • drugs
  • explosives
  • disease including diabetes and colon cancer

A dog’s sense of smell is so refined it can distinguish a live person from a dead one, underwater.

In Australia, the Springer Spaniel has been used to find injured koalas in forests scorched by bushfires.

The Boxer’s Nose Is His Key To Survival

It’s natural instinct for your Boxer to use his nose to interact with the world.

Whereas we humans rely mostly on sight, dogs are scent-driven. The use of smell above all other the senses is one reason that deaf Boxers, and even blind ones, can still function well.

Scent plays a major role in prey drive, which is very strong in Boxers. Being able to pick up the scent of food allows a dog to give chase.

Ever wondered why your Boxer seems to react differently to random dogs for no apparent reason, even before they’ve gotten close?

A dog’s nose has a patch of sensory cells called the vomeronasal organ, which detects pheromones.

Pheromones are chemicals that animals release and which affect other members of the same species.

At any given time a dog’s nose is multitasking: it is both breathing and smelling. When a dog inhales air, some of it goes to the lungs while some goes straight to the olfactory area.

Researchers suspect dogs smell in stereo: they can use each nostril separately to pinpoint exactly where a smell is coming from.

Your dog’s nose can detect slight gradients in the concentration of odor in the environment. This ability allows him to tell which direction a person or animal has travelled, and how recently.

The slits on the side of your Boxer’s nose allow him to simultaneously breathe in and out, creating a continuous air circulation. In humans only people like the Australian Aborigines can come anywhere close to this skill, used when playing the didgeridoo.

The canine nose is such a marvel that scientists trying to create a robotic nose are using it as a model.

Scent-Based Jobs Boxers Have Done

Because of their powerful nose and trainability, Boxers have been used to perform many jobs, including:

  • search and rescue (Boxers have been used in teams across the United States and worked with federal marshals)
  • cadaver detection after earthquakes, fires and bombings
  • police work
  • the military

Scent Work For Pet Boxers

A keen sense of smell means your Boxer is capable of much more than reading the pee-mail and coming running when you open the fridge to start making dinner.

Your Boxer will relish scent-based tasks to break up the games of fetch.

“Find it”

If you want to see how good your dog’s nose really is, try playing “Find it”:

1. Have your dog sit and offer him something interesting to sniff. Perhaps an orange peel or a piece of pineapple. Anything non-toxic will work. You can say “Sniff sniff” so he knows he’s to smell, not take or eat.

2. Have him remain seated while you hide the smelly item in another room. Return and release him from the sit by telling him to “Find it!” While he’s looking you can offer encouragement by saying in a curious tone, “Where is it?”

3. When he follows the scent trail to the item, make sure he doesn’t pick it up but instead “indicates” the presence of the object by standing staring at the spot. Reward him with a treat. In fact, the game is so much fun in and of itself, he probably won’t need food rewards. Just say “Yay!” and “You found it!” while picking up the item and leaping around in celebration.

4. Hide a new item and repeat.

Snuffle mats

You can buy snuffle mats online or make them yourself by tying strips of fabric through the holes in a rubber mat to form a tight carpet. Hide treats in the mat and watch your dog get engrossed in the task of sniffing them out.

The act of sniffing is relaxing for a dog so this is a great activity to leave your Boxer when you go out. He’ll find all the treats and then, satisfied, curl up for a snooze.

Nose work

If you’re interested you can take this to another level: your Boxer is a natural candidate for nose work and tracking activities.

Nose work is a canine sport in which dogs have to ignore distractions to find a specific target odor and alert their handler.


Tracking, done outdoors, is an official American Kennel Club sport, based on a dog’s ability to recognize and follow a scent.

Typically, dogs are given a task like finding and indicating an article like a glove. They must find the object by tracking a trail that’s been laid through a series of physical obstacles and changes of terrain.

Cross-tracks are thrown in as decoys, to see if a dog can be thrown off the scent by another, confounding scent.

Dogs wear a special tracking harness attached to a long line. The dog is 100 per cent in charge. The handler follows at a distance.

Tracking skills are the basis of formal search and rescue work.

Boxers do very well at these tasks.

Other Dog Breeds Known For Good Noses

Hound dogs have the best noses but working dogs also fare well.

There is some thought that brachycephalic (snub-nosed) dogs like Pugs can have their airways compromised in a way that affects their sense of smell. Boxers are another brachy breed, but they smell perfectly well.

Breeds regarded as having the best noses include:

  • Bloodhound
  • Basset Hound
  • Pointers
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • Coonhound
  • Beagle
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Labradors
  • German Shepherd

Concluding Thoughts On The Boxer Nose

Boxers love to sniff, and are very good at following a scent.

A Boxer’s nose is so central to how he experiences, and derives meaning from, his world that it’s essential for your Boxer’s wellbeing to let him smell his surroundings.

Life is short. Stop and smell the everything.

When your Boxer lingers at the base of a tree, he is not just sniffing pee. He’s reading a whole story, rich with detail. And then, adding his own contribution.

Even when your dog is sick and unable to go on proper walks, make sure he gets little “sniffing tours” to keep this important part of his brain active and his central sense, satisfied.

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