2015 APDT Annual Educational Conference & Trade Show

SA10 - Working Like a Dog: The Remarkable Capabilities (and Real Limits) of the Canine Nose

Oct 17, 2015 1:30pm ‐ Oct 17, 2015 3:00pm

Standard: $20.00


This class is an introduction to the complex world of working scent dogs, which can, with proper training, detect everything from abalone to accelerants. If there’s a particular smell out there—illegal, endangered, delicious, destructive, invasive, or dangerous—people can train dogs to find it. But dogs aren’t miraculous and success is far from a given: fine handlers and trainers are the epicenter of teaching dogs to reliably distinguish particular scents and to communicate their discovery clearly and consistently, to work under all sorts of adverse conditions. Often dog-and-handler teams are working in dangerous environments, or in the midst of devastation—whether from crime, war, climate change, earthquakes or airplane crashes. The uniqueness, the rare perfection of that human and canine partnership in our mechanized world is what keeps working dogs from obsolescence. Not all dog-and-handler teams are effective. But when they are good, they are very, very good; they can distinguish scent, cover territory, and accomplish tasks that no machine is yet capable of. How can they do it? What is the training needed for peforming such tasks? What do we know about dogs’ scenting abilities and cognitive capacities in such conditions? The class gives an overview of the sometimes weird but always fascinating world of working scent dogs. It introduces the basic training and handling techniques that can help prepare an effective scent dog, and even looks at some of the myths and exaggerations about the dog’s nose that can cause real harm, in the courtroom and beyond.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the basics of foundational scent discrimination training for working scent dogs
  • Identify both some truths and some myths about the capabilities and limits of the working dog’s nose
  • Be able to assess whether clients’ dogs have the potential to do scent work


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