Scent Detection

To have a dog detect the smallest amount of peanuts to someone that is highly allergic can be lifesaving.  To be able to detect gluten for someone with Celiac’s disease can save them from a month of suffering.

Scent detection can be used for everything from allergies to detecting serious illnesses.  You can train some of this yourself but in some cases, you may need a professional, especially if your life depends on an accurate alert.

In this task you will be training your dog to locate a scent and communicate to you, the handler that the scent has been found.

You are going to take the amazing working relationship you have with your dog and turn it into a fun game.  With this you will build drive and the dog’s understanding of the game. You’re also going to learn observation skills of dog’s searching behavior. Start by teaching your dog how to use his sense of smell, something he already knows but must learn to do this independently.

First the dog must first become familiar with the game to the point where it desires the game predominantly over the environment.

Hide, Reward, Timing, The Hunt, At the Source and most of all FUN!

Start with boxes or buckets on an open container like Tupperware to teach the dog to hunt for the reward and to limit the environment.  This will get the dog to focus on the game.  The boxes also serve to contain the reward.

We start the game by showing the dog the possibility that it can obtain a reward (a favorite yummy treat) by investigating the boxes and locating that reward. 

Line up about 6 boxes and put some treats in the first box.  Leave the boxes open so they can easily get the treat.  Always use the same box you put the treats in.  On or off leash, your choice but if it’s on leash, make sure you are not directing your dog, keep a loose leash.  Lots of praise when he finds the treats. 

Move the box to the 2nd spot and again put several yummy treats in the box and let your dog find it.  Move the box to the 3rd spot and follow your dog down the line of boxes until he gets to the 3rd box with he treats…. lots of praise.  End with your box back in the first position, so he’ll learn not to skip over boxes. 

Review boxes with treats until you’re sure he understands the game.  Now have a short pause before you reward and when your dog turns to look at you asking “where’s my treat” reward.  At this point your dog may add a sit or a down.  Encourage and reward.  Watch for your dog’s alert signal. Hide treats outside the boxes.  Add environmental searches, utilizing different rooms and using different areas to search.    

Now we’re going to introduce the odor your dog will be searching for, in this case we’ll work with  gluten but use whatever you want your dog to alert on.  

You’ll need to get some gluten flour but be very careful to keep it contained.   Try not to get any on your hands or any other object.  You’ll want to get or buy small identical containers with holes, so the gluten odor can escape, and you will put the gluten flour in one of the containers.   Always use the same container for the gluten.  Do not contaminate the others.  They must not have any gluten smell on them.  

Start with 2 containers.  Put a container with the gluten and an empty container on the floor.  When your dog smells the container with the gluten and give her a treat.  Deliver the treat as soon as she sniffs the gluten.  If she sniffs the other container, just ignore her.    Repeat this exercise multiple times.  

Now add the other containers that are empty.  Line them up like you did with the boxes.  When she hits on the container with the gluten she gets a treat.  Nothing for the containers that are empty.    

When you’re finished training, put the container with the gluten in an airtight box and in a room that your dog doesn’t go into.  You want to keep the environment clean for now.  

More to come and more videos on training.  



This is a fun game you can play for pinpointing hides.  Get a muffin pan and 12 tennis balls and put a treat under one of the tennis balls.  See how accurate your dog is at finding which tennis ball has the treat.