Scent Work Wonderings

Pedro wearing flowers

Here’s a question for those of you who ask your dogs to do sniffy activities with you: who determines where the odor is?

Does the hide setter determine where the odor is? What about the handler? 

In my opinion the dog determines where the odor is. And that might not be the same thing as where the hide has been placed, or where the handler expects the dog to alert. 

If you want to test this, have someone place a hide for you, well hidden so you can’t see it, and have them leave. And NOT tell you where it is. Go run the search and reward your dog for being in odor. You can ask where the hide was later. The human side of the team gets so hung up on the location of the hide, sometimes we forget to watch our dogs behavior and trust them when they are telling us about what they smell. Does that mean you might be reinforcing for pooling odor? Yep. You might also be reinforcing for fringing. All very scary things for the handler. But what if the hide isn’t actually sourceable, even if it is hidden somewhere that could be accessed by the dog? What if the odor isn’t available at that moment? 

What if the game of scent work was for the handler to describe an odor picture and it didn’t matter about where the hide was? Maybe it’s time for a new sniffy sport, Art From Odor. It could be totally subjective, no yes’s or no’s needed!  You could get points for the most 3-dimensional odor map based on what your dog was doing and how well you let your dog work. 

At Journey Agility & Dog Training, we come up with creative ways to help you and your dog succeed at whatever sport you want to try! Expand your horizons, think outside of the box! 

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