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Peculiar Pet Facts: Dogs Have Unique Nose Prints

Welcome to our Peculiar Pet Facts series, where we investigate the oddities of our pets and explore the science behind them.

Have your ever looked closely (really close) at your dog’s nose? Next time your dog sticks their sniffer in your face, take a look. See those bumps and grooves? The pattern they form is unique to your dog. Let’s learn more about this peculiar fact and how unique nose patterns could be used to help find lost dogs.

The Study of Nose Patterns

The part of the nose that researchers focus on when studying dog nose patterns is the section between and around the dog’s nostrils. The pattern of bumps and grooves in the skin, and the shape of the nostrils (called nares), are different for every dog.

Originally, nose prints were collected on paper to study nose patterns. But making a “good” nose print can be difficult (and messy) with a squirmy dog. Advancements in technology mean that photos are now used, which avoids the need to “paint” the dog’s nose and also allows for easier digital analysis of the image.

Limited but Consistent Research Findings

There isn’t a large amount of scientific research published on dogs’ nose patterns, even though there are a large number of sources claiming dog nose prints are unique. But two studies were conducted recently (see below) to help substantiate some of the original dog nose pattern research and also look at whether a puppy’s nose print remains the same as they grow. The sample size was still relatively small in these studies, but it’s more research to add to the collection that says nose patterns are different for each dog.

The study that aimed to prove dogs’ nose patterns are unique collected nose images from 60 dogs from 18 different breeds that also varied in their age and gender. This was to help establish that nose patterns do differ between breeds and that, for example, not all female dogs have the same nose pattern. The researchers took photos of the dogs’ noses three times about three to four months apart and did a visual examination as well as algorithmic verification of the patterns. They found that the nose patterns of the 60 dogs were unique and they remained unchanged over the study period.

The other study took nose images of ten beagle puppies every month for 10 months, starting at 2 months of age until the puppies were 11 months old. Six of the puppies were siblings and the other four puppies were siblings, which meant the researchers could also determine whether siblings had the same nose patterns or not. The study found that each puppy had a unique nose pattern that didn’t change as they grew (at least, starting from two months of age). They also confirmed that siblings don’t have the same nose patterns.

Using Nose Patterns to Find Lost Dogs

In both of these studies, the researchers used algorithms to confirm the nose patterns were different between each dog. Phone apps have been developed for the purpose of locating lost dogs that also use technology to analyze dog nose patterns. The idea is that you register your dog and their nose image on the app. If your dog became lost, you could let other app users know that your dog is missing. If someone thinks they’ve found your dog, they can use their phone camera to scan the dog’s nose. If it’s a match, the app notifies you and you can arrange to get your missing buddy back. It also means you don’t need to take a stray/lost dog to a veterinarian to scan for a microchip — just take a photo (if you can get close enough and the dog stands still, of course).


So the next time you’re cleaning nose prints off the living room windows, think about how only your dog could have made those prints. It’s one-of-a-kind window art!


Dogs have unique nose prints graphic. | Diamond Pet Foods


RELATED POST: Debarking Pet Myths: Does a Dog’s Nose Lead Them Home?


The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.


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