Scents and Sensibility
Nurture your dog's gift of sniff.
M. Christine Zink, DVM, Ph.D.
Imagine a world in which your most acute sense is your sense of smell. In fact, your sense of smell is far superior to your visual abilities. Instead of a television in your living room, you have a box that emanates odors in combinations and sequences that together tell a story, complete with protagonist, plot, conflict and resolution. Instead of identifying the perpetrator or a crime in a police lineup, you take a whiff of a series of bottles containing human scent, one of which was obtained from the suspect (a task dogs already fulfill in Europe today).
Not only do you know exactly where your teenage daughter was on a Saturday night, you can identify whom she was with and exactly what she did with him! And on your night out, instead of going to a concert, you attent a scent symphony. Although it sounds like a fantasy, that is the world in which our dogs list.
Olfaction is the primary sense dogs use to interact with the world. Take your dog for a walk around the block, and it is immediately obvious how rewarding scent is to him. He barely steps foot on the front sidewalk before his nose is down, reading the pages of inhalation information accumulated there. He knows that a bunny hopped by at twilight last night, that the neighborhood cat is watching from under some nearby shrubs, and that he is about half an hour too late to meet up with the cute little Sheltie from down the street whose owner always has dog cookies in her pocket. Your dog pulls you eagerly down the sidewalk and skids to a halt at the nearest fire hydrant. There he takes so long reading pee mail that you start to feel like you want a chance to get on the computer, too, to find out what is so interesting!
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