Its no secret that dogs have an amazing sense of smell. This is what has made them such a valuable piece in search-and-rescue, police, and pest detection services. A dog’s ability to detect scent is so acute that many believe it is as much as a million times more sensitive than a humans. Even though all dogs are born sniffers, in order to become expert scent detecting dogs they need to go through scent detection training.
Scent detecting training is not just for dogs who will one day assist police or pest management professionals in the field. As a matter of fact, any dog can be trained to become a scent dog, and the benefits can do wonders for both pets and their owners alike. Whether a dog is young and ready to learn or old and needing a new activity to keep moving, scent detection training can be a fun and rewarding experience. By putting to use basic dog search skills, the activity of scent training can build confidence, burn off mental and physical activity, and even bring a dog and its owner closer together.
So how does scent training work? The basic scent detection training process begins by giving the dog a scent to detect. It can be anything from a piece of cloth to a “scent pad,” which is a small spot on the ground were the individual who will be tracked leaves their scent. The established scent is then placed at least five feet away from the dog and the dog is put in a harness. To begin the detection process, a trainer will establish a command word and will guide the dog to sniff in the direction of the scent. After guiding the dog through the detection process a few times, the trainer will again introduce the scented article to the dog and give the command, but this time the dog detects the scent without aid from the trainer. Once the dog successfully finds the scent the trainer rewards them, usually in the form of a treat. This process is then repeated often varying where the scent is placed and how long it sits to train the dog to pick up even the smallest traces of scent.
Once the dog has become an expert at detecting scents in a small, controlled environment, they are moved on to more difficult scenarios where they can be trained to block out natural outdoor distractions. These include detecting scents around parked cars, in parks, and in large indoor environments. During the training, each dog will have a unique method in detecting a scent and it is encouraged to let the dog express themselves as they would naturally. The important thing is to reward the dog and make it fun!
Dogs trained in scent detection are becoming a popular tool used by pest control companies to find bed bugs. Through their amazing sense of smell, trained dogs are able to detect pests like bed bugs much faster than their human counterparts. Training dogs for the detection of bed bugs is similar to any other form of scent detection training; however, a focus is paced on detecting the presence of bed bugs, both alive and dead, in large and cluttered indoor environments. A trainer will hide enclosed containers of both live and dead bed bugs around a large training facility. The dog will then be introduced to the scent of the bed bugs and released to detect the premises. Once a positive detection is made, the dog is trained to give a visual or auditory signal to the pest management professional who then conducts a more detailed search of the area. After each successful detection the dog is rewarded to reenforce a positive feeling with an accurate detection.
Scent detection training isn’t only for puppies who have not yet developed their own personal habits. Dogs old and young, confident or insecure can benefit from scent detection training. For dogs who are jumpy and insecure, the training can be beneficial in giving them more confidence and a sense of accomplishment while doing something they love. When a dog is given a task like detecting scents that enables them to utilize their natural abilities, they become more confident. Through a specialized training process, dogs can be trained to detect a wide variety of scents, including hard to find pests like bed bugs. Their unique ability to detect even the faintest scents accurately and efficiently has made dogs an invaluable tool for pest management professionals across the U.S.
About the Author:
Daniel Mackie, owner of GreenLeaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid gardener.