in

Mastering Scent Work with Your Dog: Essential Tips & Methods Revealed

Discover how to engage your dog’s powerful sense of smell in exciting Scent Work activities. Learn essential methods and training tips for successful scent detection.

Scent Work is a sport that imitates working with search dogs to detect a substance by scent and tell its handler or owner that it has been found!

Scent Work with Dogs is a sport that imitates working with search dogs to detect a substance by smell (e.g. explosives or narcotics) and informing the handler that the substance has been found.

Scent work is a positive and stimulating activity that allows dogs to use their most robust natural sense in a fun, engaging way that builds and reinforces a foundation of trust between handler and dog.

Let’s take a step back.

From the very beginning, the sense of smell plays a significant role in a dog’s life. Science even suggests that puppies begin to develop and use their sense of smell while still in the womb.

They are indeed born with it, and being blind and deaf until two or three weeks of age, they use their sense of smell and touch to help them find their mother and her milk. As the puppy grows, the sense of smell increases, becoming an essential part of how it experiences the world.

If sight is the primary sense for humans, smell is for dogs. So, it is worth looking at how his nose works.

The dog’s truffle

Dogs' noses are moist because they are covered with a thin layer of mucus, which helps the animal smell perfectly. Often, the truffle is decidedly wet: dogs do not have sweat glands like us, but they sweat from their nose and paw pads.

Whether pink, black, brown or blue, the truffle, so-called in scientific jargon, is the hairless part of the dog’s nose. It is where the ‘adventure of the sense of smell’ begins. It must be known that each nasal pattern is unique to each individual, as fingerprints are to humans.

The dog’s nostrils can move independently, which helps pick up odours from different directions. In addition, each of them samples the air separately, so it is as if the dog smells in ‘stereophony’.

When Fido studies certain odours, the left nostril is usually used for familiar and pleasant smells such as food, and the right nostril for exciting or threatening odours. In the sniffing action, the air is inhaled through the round nostrils at the front of the nose, but when the dog exhales, the air exits through the side slits; therefore, the inlet is different from the outlet,

This means that the essence of the odour is retained on entry and not immediately thrown out; in fact, the tiny air currents created by exhalation help to keep more of the odour of the substance, thus helping to concentrate it.

Essence sampling

Essences are collected by sniffing the air for a long time or when they are closer to the ground, increasing the sniff speed to maximise it. The average dog inhales about 30 ml of air per sniff and can sniff at about five to seven sniffs per second.

The nostrils are only the tip of the iceberg; behind them, the long snout contains a bony structure similar to a labyrinth of turbinates. Inside them are about 40 times as many olfactory cells as in humans.

The 5 million human olfactory cells sound like a lot, but a Beagle or German Shepherd has about 225 million, and bloodhounds (or molecular dogs) have as many as 300 million! Dogs also have a perfect olfactory memory, so once an essence is processed, it will be remembered for life.

The second nose

The moist surface of the dog’s nose helps odour particles to stick to it. When the dog licks its nose, these are transferred to the mouth for investigation by the vomeronasal organ.

The latter is sometimes called ‘the dog’s second nose‘ and is located at the base of the nasal cavity, inside the cartilaginous septum, with small openings outside. It is used to specifically detect pheromones, important chemical messages that convey information about the animal’s sex, state of health, fear, aggression, etc.

When sniffing is not enough, e.g. if there are urine markings of other similar animals, the dog also uses its mouth with grimaces ranging from grinding or chattering its teeth.

Having clarified how it works and what the sense of smell is for the dog, this wonderful organ and this ability can be used in a playful/instructive activity.

What is needed to start sniffing activities or Scent Work

The first step in teaching your dog to work with his sense of smell from home is to find the necessary things. Almost everything needed can be bought or found in our homes.

There are various ways of working with essences. Here are a couple of them:

  1. Using essence and perforated jars.
  2. Impregnating a fabric game with essence.

First method

Smell work is a positive and stimulating activity that allows dogs to use their most robust natural sense enjoyably.

Once you have chosen the essential oil, for example, birch clí oil (an oil that is not too strong but pleasant and readily available), proceed as follows.

Material needed

  • Cotton swabs, cotton buds, cut in half.
  • Tweezers.
  • A small glass jar with a lid.
  • A ‘scented jar‘ to hold the cotton buds (an empty, clean tin jar with holes in the lid will do for starters).
  • Disposable gloves.
  • High-quality treats (dog treats).
  • A plastic container with a co-pin to which we have previously drilled holes.

How to prepare the scent container

In a room away from where you work with the dog, wear disposable gloves while applying two drops of essential oil to each cotton swab. Place the scented cotton buds in the glass jar. Remove the gloves by turning them upside down, rolling them up in a newspaper, and immediately placing them in a rubbish can.

Smell work is a positive and stimulating activity that allows dogs to use their stronger natural sense in a fun way.

Using tweezers, take a cotton ball from the jar and place it in the tin container of the essence. Put the tweezers in a plastic bag and seal it. After the training session, you can reuse the cotton ball if the dog has not drooled on it and if food or other substances do not contaminate it.

Introduce the dog to scent identification.

Hold the can in one hand and the treats in the other, about 30 cm apart. When the dog finally stops sniffing or licking your hand with the treat and investigates the hand with the can, say YES and reward him by bringing the food close to the hand with the can. Note: This is an important step.

You must feed the dog at the source of the smell. If he continues to sniff the can, you can continue to reward and praise him. After a few repetitions, switch the can to the other hand so that Fido does not rely on memory to know which hand to go to. You are ready to move on if your dog can correctly identify the smell in each hand within a few seconds, at least three times in a row.

Teach the dog to find the scent.

Next, place the can containing the scented cotton swab in the plastic container. Repeat the same system, holding the can in your hand and waiting for the dog to indicate that he recognises the scent.

When he does, feed him near the box, as you did before. Next, place the box on the ground, between his feet, and repeat the abovementioned process. Finally, you can set the box on the floor while your dog is in another room, then bring him into the room and see if he can find it by adding the SEARCH or FIND command.

Training tips for working with essences

When setting up, wear gloves and always handle the cotton swab with tweezers. The smell should always be ‘new’, so do not contaminate the environment. Make sure to properly dispose of everything that has come into contact with the source of the odour (in a sealed plastic bag, preferably outdoors in a rubbish bin, away from where you are training). Choose a location to place the scent away from where you are training to prevent the dog from getting confused.

Second method

Choose a cloth dog toy, not too big but not too small either; it also depends on the size of your dog. This toy can be a tennis ball, fabric rope, or soft toy. Get some dried catnip (available online or in any pet shop) and a glass container with an airtight seal.

Spread the catnip on the bottom of the container, place some paper towels on top, and then play the game of your choice. Caution: the game must not come into contact with catnip but only with the fragrance, which is why tissues are used to separate the catnip from the tissue used later for the search.

Choose a cloth dog toy, not too big but not too small either; it also depends on the size of your dog. This toy can be a tennis ball, fabric rope, or soft toy. Get some dried catnip and a glass container with an airtight seal.

Leave the game for at least three days in the container in a place in the house where it will never be searched. Once the game is well impregnated with essence, it will initially be used to play with the dog so that he becomes familiar with the essence himself. The game must be exciting: try the tug and pull, try getting the animal to catch it by throwing it in a scattering fashion, creating a kind of predation, and so on.

As soon as Fido seems interested in catching the game, it is time to start placing it on the ground and send the dog after it in the garden room. At first, the toy will be easily visible to make it easier to find, at which point, lavishly reward the dog with food or the toy itself.

Afterwards, to make the search more exciting and fun, the impregnated toy should be hidden so that the dog uses its sense of smell and not sight to retrieve it. The degree of difficulty of the search should be increased slowly. Repeat three times, and then let the dog rest.

Tips

We recommend scenting several objects so you always have one ready for use. This initial sprinkling of catnip should last about a couple of months. After this time, empty the container of used catnip. Sprinkle on some fresh catnip and start again.

After using the article in a search, please do not put the article in the storage box after using it in a search. It is preferable to place it in a ziplock bag or container until you can wash it. Putting it back in the original container when used and soaked will contaminate the container with the smell of the dog’s saliva and make the catnip damp and, in turn, cause it to rot and lose its smell.

Do not store used items in an area where you might want to search the dog, like in the living room on top of the bookcase, as you might contaminate the area. Used fragrance-soaked items should be placed where the dog cannot access or will never be searched.

After use, the item should be washed at 60° to minimise the smell of catnip and eliminate saliva. Washing will not eradicate the smell of catnip, etc., but it will eliminate any other contamination. Do not use heavily scented detergent, as this will impart another odour to the object that may confuse the dog.

Put the washed toy back in the original container to be impregnated with essence again and ready for a new search! For more information on working with dogs and sniffing, consult a dog trainer who can follow you step by step in this fun activity.

Q&A:

What is Scent Work?

Scent Work is a sport that involves training dogs to detect specific scents, such as explosives or narcotics, and alerting their handlers to the presence of these substances.

How does a dog’s sense of smell work?

Dogs have a compelling sense of smell due to their complex nasal anatomy, which includes specialised olfactory cells and a moist nose surface that helps trap scent particles.

What are some materials needed for Scent Work training?

Materials include cotton swabs, essential oils, jars with perforated lids, fabric toys, and catnip.

How can I introduce my dog to scent identification?

Start by associating a specific scent with a reward, gradually increasing the difficulty of the search as your dog becomes more proficient.

Are there different methods for Scent Work training?

Yes, methods include using scented jars or impregnating fabric toys with scent, each offering unique challenges and opportunities for learning.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Scent Work is a stimulating activity that taps into a dog’s natural abilities and strengthens the bond between dog and handler.
  2. Dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell, making them well-suited for tasks such as detection and search work.
  3. Training for Scent Work involves introducing dogs to specific scents, rewarding them for successful identifications, and gradually increasing the difficulty of searches.
  4. Different methods, such as using scented jars or fabric toys, offer flexibility and variation in training approaches.
  5. Consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement are essential for successful Scent Work training.

Comparison Table:

AspectScent Jar MethodFabric Toy Method
Materials NeededGlass jars, cotton swabs, essential oilsFabric toys, catnip, glass container
Training ApproachInvolves using perforated jars with scented cotton swabsUtilizes fabric toys impregnated with scent
Ease of UseRequires setting up scented jars and cotton swabsSimple to impregnate fabric toys with scent
Difficulty LevelProvides controlled scent exposure for trainingOffers variable challenges depending on toy placement
Durability of MaterialsIt involves using perforated jars with scented cotton swabsFabric toys may degrade over time, requiring replacement
CleanupCotton swabs and jars need proper disposalFabric toys may require washing to remove scent residue

Thank you for reading the article to the end. Your reading contribution was significant to us.

Affiliate Disclosure: The Frenchie Breed website may receive a small commission from the proceeds of any product(s) sold through affiliate and direct partner links at no cost to you.

Follow Frenchie Breed on Google News

+ posts

The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

Leave a Reply

What do you think?

10k Points
Upvote Downvote

Written by Frenchie Breed

The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

For a dog, being stroked at the front near the neck or the hips is appreciated and creates less anxiety in him than at the rear near the tail and hind legs. Always avoid stroking over the head or the back in an initial approach.

How to Approach a Dog Safely: Essential Tips for Canine Interaction

Among the common characteristics, both belong to the Retriever family; retriever dogs with a great passion for water; they sport set-back pendulous ears, webbed paws with a membrane between the toes that helps in swimming, and a long tail.

Perfect Upbringing for Labrador and Golden