CHRONICLE: The canine sense of smell
• Local dog trainer Nadine Whittal writes:
A dog’s sense of smell is one of its most unique characteristics. It is much stronger than the human sense of smell and works very differently. The canine sense of smell has made dogs very useful and we use them to perform a number of different activities.
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Dogs can smell a gram of human sweat in a 10 story building. It’s an incredibly impressive feat. Humans have learned to train this sense of smell to achieve very specific goals. One of the best known is the use of dogs to identify explosive devices. This allows humans to walk around and safely disable the device.
We have also trained dogs to identify drugs, and they are very often used in airports and drug raids. Dogs have also been used to hunt down criminals like poachers, thieves and murderers. Each of these are useful, but how do we use a dog’s sense of smell in our own lives?
There are several theories about using dogs to detect diseases like cancer and even Covid-19. Studies regarding the effectiveness of this method are still ongoing, but it is hoped that by using the dog’s strong nose, we can identify sufferers before it is too late to administer effective treatment. Already, dogs are accustomed to detecting when epileptic seizures are going to occur in epileptic patients.
So what do we need to know about how a dog’s nose affects his behavior?
Well, where a human’s strongest and most used sense is sight, a dog’s is smell. This means that a dog’s nose, while very useful, can also be very distracting to the dog. A dog’s nose is directly linked to its brain. So, when walking your dog, don’t walk at breakneck speeds to tire your dog out. It won’t work, and the healthier your dog is, the longer you’ll have to walk him before he gets tired.
Let him sniff. The more he engages his brain, the more tired he will be.
Of course, that means you’ll have to override that instinctual need to sniff when training your dog. Like I said, the nose can also be a distraction and get in the way of the dog’s ears telling him what to do. So, the tastiest, best-smelling treats you can find will be helpful in overcoming this distraction and improving your dog’s responsiveness to training.