the Dog, the Whole World is a Smell|
Scent. You cannot see it nor smell
it. It cannot be photographed or died or lifted like a fingerprint. You cannot
find it with a laser or send it to a lab for analysis. Yet, it is there just
waiting to be understood. Olfaction, the process of
smelling, is a dog's primary unique sense.
Moisture on the surface
of a canine's noise helps to dissolve molecules in the air. These molecules then
come into contact with olfactory membranes inside the dog's nose─nerve impulses sent to the olfactory center in the brain.
Dogs also have a vomeronasal organ in the roof of their mouths which allows them
to "taste" certain smells. This organ transmits information directly to the part
of the brain known as the limbic system, which controls emotional responses.
Dogs are extraordinary among mammals when we consider their abilities in both
reception and discrimination of odorants. And, while humans possess about five million scent receptors,
our large breeds evidence over
200 million ─ more than half of the canine nose
committed to olfaction.
Since 1984, Dr. Larry Myers, associate professor at Auburn University College of
Veterinary Medicine, has tested the olfactory capabilities of more than 4,000
dogs. Part of what makes a dog's sense of smell so sophisticated is its ability
to smell multiple layers of chemicals, says Myers. Dogs don't detect a single
chemical but a combination of them. "If (they were identifying) just a single
chemical, medicine might have picked up on it. The dog may be doing something a
little better," says Myers.
To illustrate the concept of odor layering, consider this scenario (one that we
recently experienced first hand when we made a huge vat of chili and Golden
Alfie obsessed on the pot for hours as it slow cooked. If you would go into a
kitchen where someone is cooking chili, you would smell chili. But, that wasn't
what Alfie was smelling. He was smelling the ground beef, beans,
tomatoes, red & green peppers, chili peppers, onions, garlic,
and more. Alfie could separate out each element of the chili into an individual
layer or component of odorant.
Think about that when you endeavor to teach your dogs to balance a treat or food
on their snouts or to learn the command "leave it" with respect to not going
after a fallen piece of food on the floor. In those terms, it is truly a
Dogs make great detectors of contraband materials, their scenting abilities
superior to electronic detection devices. Able to selectively locate odors, dogs
efficiently sample air and being mobile, can then take their handlers directly
to an odor source. While moving, they are able to pick up the thread. of
an odor. By casting back and forth with their bodies and heads, dogs are
constantly taking tiny samples (or sniffs). They then compare the odor
concentrations and calculate the direction of increasing concentrations,
actually following the molecular concentration gradient to its strongest point,
or source. When dogs compare the strength of scent received in each of their
nostrils, fine-grained pinpointing of odor is achieved. And, because they can
detect minute quantities of odorants and are much more capable of discriminating
between individual molecular combinations that identify odorants, it is usually
impossible to fool them by packaging strong-smelling items with
And, please consider Mollty Masland's reflections on our
canines' sense of smell: "The next time your dog decides to dive belly first
into a pile of rotting fish or writhe in ecstasy in another dog’s feces, keep in
mind that this seemingly horrifying urge could one day help save your life." Goldens are now successfully being utilized to detect epileptic seizures, low
blood sugar and heart attacks. Research about this phenomena is based on the
theory that disease causes subtle chemical changes in the body or alterations in
metabolism. And, these alterations then release a different smell, or chemical
Surely, we all know the propensity for our dogs to be checking their
p-mail─sniffing trees and lampposts to see how
many messages have been left for them. Well, a team of scientists and dog
trainers put this behavior to good use in a novel experiment which had canines
sniffing human urine to detect bladder cancer sufferers. It is believed that
dogs are detecting very low concentrations of the alkanes and aromatic compounds
generated by tumors.
While all of our dogs have sniffing capabilities, becoming an
accomplished human scent or substance detector dog involves much training and
handler devotion. Yet, we couldn't resist the below tongue-in-cheek
detection dog humor that lays all the blame on our furry companions.
To honor the fabulous book, Scent
of the Missing―the story of Susannah and
SAR Dog Puzzle's adventures together, and of the close relationship they
forge as they search for the lost―we
created the Paws 2
Connect Photo Contest. The contest celebrates the harmony of
teamwork, successful teams surely beating with one heart. We are
looking for those photos that demonstrate dog and person in active
communication and collaboration on a task. There is an incredible $400
prize package and it is a cinch to enter. Get on over to
landofpuregold.com/paws2connect.htm for the details.
TOP 10 Reasons Why K9 Candidates Don't Make
it as Detection Dogs
||Arson Dogs --
Couldn't get the dog fired up.
||Agricultural Detection Dogs
Dog had no taste for the work.
||Water Search Dogs --
Dog was in over his head.
||Wildlife Detection Dogs --
Dog was just winging it.
||Airport Detection Dogs --
Dog was too flighty.
||Explosives Detection Dogs
Dog kept blowing it.
||Drug Detection Dogs --
Dog wouldn't inhale.
||Termite Detection Dogs -- Dog bugged me too much.
||Currency Detection Dogs --
The dog was a poor candidate.
||Gypsy Moth Detection Dogs
Dog's mind kept wandering.
With our current world situation requiring more
thinking outside the box, this particular topic has gained international
prominence. Please do take the time to learn about the incredible work that
is being done to bring uniform standards and thereby acceptance of our
dogs' work. Golden Custer surely wants to be taken seriously as he sniffs
for contraband in our schools.