Replace all the vision/seeing words with smelling/scent and maybe, just maybe we’d start to know what a dog’s world was like. Scent receptors, 200 million to 230 million of them make up a significantly major part of a dog’s head. We, as mere olfactory sensory deprived humans, have 40 times less. We know comparatively little about the world of scent.
Dog’s nostrils breathe the scent in and then blow their breath out through the side flange to avoid disturbing the other scent they are working on. In straight, out the side; nice set up.
Longer nosed dogs are better able to follow scent trails, with Blood Hounds having the best tracking ability and the most scent receptors.
Shepherds are often used because they are willing to learn the most diverse scenting (maybe…or this may have just been a bias). The kinds of breeds used may be just ones that cause the least distress to most bystanders…beagles or light coat-colored retrievers at airports or check points. Dogs can detect amazingly little scent, old scent, scent from things that never touched the ground. The trick is to communicate what we want them to scent for us and then trust them. And oddly enough search and rescue canine groups are almost all volunteer, despite the huge training, testing, practice and travel commitments involved.
Any dog can learn to do scent games, finding articles or treats or following a trail. Size of the dog doesn’t matter. And dogs love to use the sense that is their dominant one, just like we like to use our eyes (photos, sight-seeing…)
Games 1) sniff it, find it – start with treats, obviously placed then move on to hiding them. Do this progressively and have fun, your dog will too. Then trade to an object, I like using my gloves since I drop them accidentally more times than I’d like, and they get rewarded when they find the object (you can decide whether you want them to bring it or just show you where it is).
2) Find a person – person initially runs straight away and does a poor job of hiding themselves, yes! when the puppy finds them. Progressively make it harder. Move on to kids hiding more effectively and pup finding them.
3) Shell game – treat in one hand, not in the other; or treat under one container and not the other. Cheers for detecting the right one.
- Sniffing For Fun (home.arlboston.org)
- A Dog’s nose just knows…A common sense of smell (wagthedoguk.com)