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Do Dogs Have Taste Buds?
Dog FactsDog Food

Do Dogs Have Taste Buds?

If you have a dog who eats anything from chicken pieces to garbage and poop, you must be wondering, “Do dogs have taste buds?” The plain and simple answer is yes. They can taste various flavors; however, their sense of taste works slightly differently from humans. 

In this article, we dive deep into understanding dogs' taste buds, the link between the sense of taste and smell, if your dog can taste all the taste types like humans, and what tastes good to dogs and what they avoid.

Do Dogs Have Taste Buds?

Dogs have around 1700 taste buds, typically present on papillae (small, visible bumps on the tongue) that let them taste different flavors of food. They have only about one-sixth the number of taste buds compared to humans, and their distinctive sense of taste is inefficient, which is why they have a lesser ability to distinguish between subtle flavors, such as chicken, pork, or beef, and even munch on garbage and fecal matter sometimes. 

The sense of taste in puppies develops after a few weeks of life. They get the ability to taste even before hearing and vision. Also, the number of taste buds and sense of smell decline as the dog ages, which often turns them into picky eaters, or their appetite significantly decreases.

Dogs’ taste palate can sense all the tastes if the flavors are intense. Taste buds found in different areas on the tongue are a little more sensitive to certain flavors than others. For example, sweet and salty taste buds are present at the front of the tongue.

What’s interesting is that dogs can even taste the flavor in water. They have these unique receptors at the tip of their tongue that give water a flavor. What water tastes like to a dog is still unclear; however, these taste buds turn more sensitive after consuming meaty meals. Moreover, dogs have specific receptors that are fine-tuned to meats because their ancestors primarily had meat in their diet. 

How Does a Dog's Sense of Smell Impact How They Taste?

It is widely known that food items that smell good usually taste good. The sense of smell plays a crucial part in how dogs taste food. They have about 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose compared to around 3 million in humans. 

Hence, your dog drools whenever you are cooking a delicious meal, especially when it is ground meat. Also, you may have noticed your dog finds canned wet food more enticing than dry kibble because it has a strong smell. They can also tell when food is not safe by merging the sense of smell and taste.

Can Dogs Taste Spicy, Sweet, Sour, and Salty Food?

Dogs can taste spicy, sweet, sour, and salty foods, as they have receptors for all taste types similar to humans. But dog taste buds are not highly tuned to salty foods like humans’ taste palates are, which goes back to their ancestral meaty diets that are typically high in salt, so the dogs never developed highly tuned salt receptors. 

Also, your canine companion enjoys sweet flavors, which is also because their ancestors had wild fruits and vegetables in their diets. However, you must offer sugary pet foods in moderation and avoid sharing sugary human foods with your dog. 

What Tastes Good to Dogs and Why?

Dogs love meaty foods because they have strong receptors that identify fats and because they smell delicious. Also, since they are typically omnivores, they have an affinity for sweet flavors. Dogs liking fatty and sugary food goes back to their roots, which is the diet of their ancestors comprising almost 80 percent meat and enjoying fruits and vegetables. 

What Tastes Bad to Dogs and Why?

Dogs are not fond of spicy, sour, bitter tastes, as their ancestors would consider bitter taste a signal of poison or spoilage. More often, bacterial contamination also causes spoilage, which makes food taste bitter. And most of these may not even be safe for your dog. It also explains why dogs avoid medications, as they taste bitter.  

Spicy foods have a compound called capsaicin that causes burning heat, which can cause physical reactions in dogs even when they are unable to taste much of it. 


Although not as many as humans, dogs have taste buds that work with the sense of smell, which lets them distinguish various flavors, helps them appreciate good food, and keeps them away from bad ones. So, when you see your dog running towards something or a food item to eat, know that it smells good and tastes delicious to your canine friend. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can dogs taste sweet?

Dogs have receptors for sweet flavor towards the front of the tongue, which lets them taste sweet and they usually enjoy sugary foods. 

Can dogs taste spicy?

Dogs can taste spicy food; however, they may not enjoy the spicy food and flavors as people do. 

Can dogs taste sour?

Yes, dogs have a taste palate for sour foods. However, they usually avoid sour, salty, and bitter tastes.