Why Do Dogs Have Cold Noses?

Most of us who have been raised around dogs all of our lives take for granted that dogs have cold noses. New pet owners who are experiencing their first encounters may be surprised and probably wonder if their pet is healthy or if there is something wrong. Even us who realize a dog’s nose should be cold and wet are not likely to know why this is the case. Believe it or not, a lot of research has gone into learning the factors that combine to make a dog’s nose cold.

Is it natural?

Your dog’s nose is cold because of nature’s perfect design. It’s supposed to be that way. A dog’s nose is hundreds of times more sensitive when it comes to identifying his surroundings through his keen sense of smell. It’s all about analyzing his environment through scent, and a cold and wet nose picks up the tiny particles in the air better than a hot dry nose. Tiny particles contain scent and your dog gains information about the world around him from the scents. He has a secondary olfactory processor called Jacobsen’s organ that is found in the roof of his mouth. When he licks particles off his nose he gets a bigger burst of information to process.

A wet nose helps your dog to interact with the world

Your dog’s nose is a powerful organ that can help him to collect scents that humans can’t detect. When he licks his nose things get more intense. He can tell if there is a female in season in the neighborhood, a skunk ambling around, or other creatures in close proximity. Through his sense of smell he discerns male from female dogs and his cold wet nose helps him to gather information so he can make decisions about how to interact with his environment.

Scientific studies about the temperature of a dog’s nose

A common myth has been perpetuated about the temperature of a dog’s nose. Many people believe that when a dog’s nose is warm his is sick or at least not feeling well. The truth of the matter is that the temperature of a dog’s nose, warm or cold, is not an indicator of health. It is just as normal for his nose to be warm as it is when it’s cold and wet.

A cold nose enhances detection skills

The scientists who attempted to learn why dogs have cold noses made some interesting discoveries. By studying caine behaviors and looking at images of the brain, they learned that dogs have the ability to detect weak thermal radiation from a certain distance. This is correlated to their primal instinct for hunting prey. Members of the canine family in the wild need to be able to hunt to sustain their lives and to feed their pups, so it makes sense that nature has better equipped them to detect heat from a distance. This puts a cold nose more into the realm of adaptation for survival skills in the wild.

The nose/brain interaction

The researchers took the studies further to try to understand how the brain and the nose are correlated. The experimental situations and trials that were devised included MRI scanning of dog’s brains when subjecting them to human trials that involved choices for going through an are with an insulating door with a warmer surface and a neutral one with a cooler surface. The MRI indicated that activity occurred in the part of the brain that is used for processing responses to food. They were able to link this activity with predatory instincts, the processing of information for decision making, and so forth.

Other assumptions

From the large amount of information that the researchers gathered, there were several assumptions made about the reasons why a dog’s nose is cold. A cold nose makes it easier to detect radiant warmth, and it also enhances their already keen capacity for gathering and analyzing particular scents with almost instant results. This also helped them to deduce that this is why it is more difficult for dogs to track other life forms be it human or animal when the weather outside is cold or rainy. It interferes with the heat signals that are sent out.


We’re finally getting a few answers to questions we’ve had about dogs for a long time. A dog’s nose is cold for very good reasons. It’s a natural condition that some dogs enhance by licking their noses so they will get wet and cool off. The cold nose gives your dog a better sense of what’s going on in the world around him. Most dogs make decisions in the blink of an eye. It isn’t that they’re smarter than humans and can cognitively process more quickly, it’s more a case of nature’s endowment for survival of the species. That wet cold nose acts like a magnet for picking up tiny bits and pieces of information from the air so your dog’s amazing sense of smell can send the facts to his brain for processing. He knows when a buddy is nearby, or a stranger with reason for alarm is nearby.


It’s a good thing when your dog’s nose is cold and wet. It means he’s ready to receive vital information. The canine nose is a fascinating and powerful organ that has inspired multiple scientific studies just so we can know more about how it works. The thin layer of mucous on his nose helps it to retain its wetness and its coldness. There’s nothing too mysterious about that. Although it can be annoying when he pokes his cold wet nose on an exposed arm or leg, his nose is one of the most remarkable traits of his species.

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