Can Dogs Always Find Their Way Home?

Updated On: Tuesday, August 15, 2023 16:29:45 PM America/Los_Angeles

We’ve all heard the miracle stories about dogs finding their way home despite impossible circumstances. Their infamous sense of smell and hearing, as well as an undying devotion to their humans, has been credited for the ability to magically find their way back home–even when the odds seem stacked against lost pups. But can dogs actually find their way home as easily as we think? And if dogs can find their way home, what makes this possible?

Photo by Jamie Street 

Can All Dogs Find Their Way Back Home? 

Before going any further, it’s important to acknowledge that while our canine companions are pretty incredible, not all dogs are able to easily sniff out the road back home. And in fact, even the most skilled dogs may have trouble finding their abode. The reality is that there are plenty of challenging – not to mention dangerous – obstacles that can get in the way. 

Remember: While dogs can use their strong sense of smell and hearing to find their way home, there are complications like busy streets, fast cars, and inclement weather that make it dangerous for your fur baby to roam outdoors unsupervised. Always keep an eye on your pet(s) and make sure that your furry one is well trained before letting them off leash outdoors. Till then, an indoor dog bathroom like DoggieLawn is a great way to keep your pooch safe and sound.   

That being said, some breeds such as those natural-born hunters, scavengers, and herders may have the upper paw in being able to find their way back home. But ability isn’t just about a breed’s genetics. It also has to do with the lifestyle that likely accompanies certain breeds. For example, small lap dogs probably cover less area while on walks and are more likely to be potty trained. This leads to decreased familiarity with their surroundings, which can pose a challenge if they’re lost. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for larger breeds to go on longer walks and to use the great outdoors as their pet potty. As you’ll read next, smell is crucial for the canine’s unique ability to hone in on their home.  

The Link Between Smell and Direction

Ever wonder why your doggo stops for a potty break every 20 feet while out on walks? There are plenty of reasons for this unique bathroom habit, but one critical reason is so that they can use these “smell markers” to guide and alert them to familiar places. In addition to smells functioning as signals, these scents become increasingly stronger the more your dog uses the same path. This is one of the primary reasons why smell is so vital for a dog’s sense of direction–smells not only function as sign posts, the intensity of the scent also indicates the proximity of their home. 

As impressive as canine noses are, it’s best not to rely solely on their capacity to sniff their way back home. Potential dangers are always a possibility, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Using a real grass pee pad until you can confidently take your pup outdoors is always a smart move!