Scent and Dog Emotions

What on Earth is that BUMP on the roof of my dog’s mouth?! Well, have no concern as it is something normal - ask your veterinarian. 

Even though a dog’s anatomy is completely different than a human’s, they still have similarities because humans also have an incisive papilla. However, its purpose is a lot different.  

It is fascinating to find out that a dog has the capacity to sniff a tablespoon of sugar in an olympic sized swimming pool. Imagine what they smell when they walk into your home.

Let’s break that down a little more to really understand how a dog is breathing, bringing in the scents and making their decisions.

A dog’s nose is constantly circulating the air it breaths through the slits and back through its nostrils. It has the potential of about 300,000,000 olfactory receptors compared to a human’s 5-6,000,000. 

This information comes through a hole in the incisive papilla and travels through a duct which goes straight to the Jacobson gland (also known as Vomeronasal organ).

The Jacobson organ connects to the dog's amygdala, an important part of the brain that plays a big role in a dog’s life - The amygdala is responsible for the perception of emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness, as well as the controlling of aggression.  

And so the incisive papilla allows dogs to emotionally respond to molecules such as pheromones, adrenaline and the smell of diseases such as cancer which travel up the incisive duct.

Fear conditioning has everything to do with this. On one hand, you want your dog to have a sense of fear and to be able to emotionally demonstrate this.  An example would be if you were hiking a trail and ran across a snake, you would want your dog to alert you by showing its fear. 

Another example would be someone trespassing onto your property.  This intruder should come across as an alarming, new scent. And a dog’s reaction would be to bark and let you know.

A bad example of fear would be the loss of siblings or being hurt by even the simplest thing as being underfoot as a puppy and getting trampled on by accident.  These things happen and they can be undone through the right type of training. 

As you could imagine, in a dog’s brain there are other organs and complex systems that simultaneously work together.  But, knowing the role of the incisive papilla and amygdala makes it easier to train a dog knowing how it learns and understanding one of its many functions.