Thursday, 6 December 2007

dogs and scent discrimination

Penny and I love playing tracking games around the house - especially on these hot summer days when we don't want to go out. I tell her to 'wait', after holding something for her to sniff. It's usually food, but sometimes my car keys. Then she follows my trail around the house - I've noticed she generally tracks where I went rather than just heading for the food itself. I assume what we are playing is somewhere in between tracking and scenting. I'd love to learn more about scenting.

Therefore, I was pleased to find a couple of great links on Johann's blog. One is to an article called How to Train Scent Discrimination for Obedience Competition. It's at Karen Pryor's clicker training site.

The point is that you are teaching the dog to choose amongst scents, not just to track. In part, it says:
There are a number of ways to introduce your dog to the concept of making a choice based on scent. Remember that this is something the dog tends to do anyway. You can start directly with your own scent, or you can use something more potent and obvious, such as cheese or vanilla extract. The purpose of the more potent starter is not to teach your dog to use its nose, but to give you the ability to perceive more accurately what your dog is doing, and to respond to it.

It reminds me of a science game I've played often with young children, where there are two sets of small jars with cotton-wool in them, impregnated with scents. The children briefly open the jar, sniff the contents, and match up the pairs. I remember that vanilla was one of the scents we used. I've never known a child who didn't love this game - which maybe goes to show that we're not so different from our dogs.

Johann also mentions the K9events site that has a heap of links about retrieving and scenting. It's a feast of information. Given the weather we've had lately, with the hot days starting even before spring had finished, I think we're in for a long summer, so I'm really looking forward to trying these activities. If it's shady outside I think we could play out there without Penny getting overheated.


Amber-Mae said...

Hi there Parlance & Penny!

We just came back from the doggie spa & we will good & tired! How have you both been doing? My sense of smell is no good. Like I told you before in your older post, I can't even sniff out my ball which is actually right in front of me. I go right pass it. My mommy wants to teach me this next but I need to learn the 'Send Away' properly first.

Love licks,
Solid Gold Dancer

Johann The Dog said...

Hey there! Glad you liked the info, we sure are anxious to get started on some 'scenting.' But you know, we do this kind of stuff in the Winter (now) while you have Summer. Sure wish we were where you are right now! We're already tired of snow.

Woofs, Johann

parlance said...

Hi, Amber-Mae! I hope the doggie spa was relaxing and enjoyable.

Penny does have a good nose, I think, but even so, we're practising with vanilla that is so strong even I can smell it. That's why I thought the article at Karen Pryor's site was good - because it explained how to start with easy scenting. Maybe one day you'll feel like doing it.

parlance said...

Johann, we've been having fun with the scenting already. Thanks again.