How Do You Keep YOUR Scent Off of the Dummy and Antler During Training?
This is a question that I really have been getting asked a lot lately and I thought I would post my answer and thoughts to it here on the Everything Shed Dog Blog:
The quick answer to this one is simple…I don’t get too worried about keeping my scent off of the dummy or antler because the fact is, no matter how hard you try, there will always be scent on the dummies and or antlers that we train with. We simply cannot beat our dog’s noses and their sense of smell! If I tried to keep my dummies and antlers completely scent free by washing them in some manner a few things would happen:
- I wouldn’t get much training done because I would find myself constantly washing and never training…each time my antlers or dummies touch me, or the dog/dogs mouth, or the training bag or what’s inside my training bag (the list goes on) the antler then takes on that scent.
- Any natural odors that the shed or dummy previously had on it (hair, blood, etc) will then be washed off as well, which defeats the purpose of training my dog to find the shed using natural odors.
The truth about this whole thing is that a dog’s ability to smell is so incredible it is hard for me to comprehend what they are capable of. Depending on the breed, a dog’s nose is estimated at 1,000 to 10,000 times stronger than humans. The other amazing thing about dogs that is difficult for us to understand is that they smell in “layers.” Whereas we smell “vegetable soup” a dog smells carrots, peas, beans…each individual ingredient, or layer. Our dog’s noses are so powerful they can smell a tablespoon of sugar diluted in the amount of water it would take to fill two Olympic sized pools!
When we train our shed dogs, we want to introduce the shape of an antler first to equal the reward (the retrieve) after being thrown. This is usually pretty simple because it is very natural as far as a visual goes; it’s just predator/prey instinct. But soon after this habit has been formed, we want to ensure that our pup does not get lazy on us and rely more so on their eyes than their nose when locating sheds. We do this by adding antler scent into the equation.
This is a liquid scent made from real shed antler scent elements- hair, blood, pulverized, but un-burnt antler. Using this liquid scent allows for us the ability to increase or decrease the amount needed or used depending on a number of variables regarding scenting conditions when training. Use more scent on dry, windy, high-pressure days and less scent on damp, calm, low-pressure days. When we add this scent to the training situation we are doing so in order set our dogs up for success in locating the retrieve by using their nose…that’s the whole point. Our dog is going to smell this concentrated scent of antler elements and begin to associate it with the reward or retrieve, but make no mistake, the dog will also detect every other smell associated with that retrieve and around that retrieve location as well individually. The important part about this whole thing is that they are using their noses to get the retrieve, not that they are smelling lots of smells individually.
Drug dogs are trained to alert to the smells of narcotics...a smuggler can take a bag of dope wrapped up in plastic, sealed airtight with tape and float it in a gas tank of a vehicle coming across the border and old Fido will sound off like a bugle horn when that vehicle drives past. If that dog is capable of detecting those drugs with that many other scenting elements and things not in their favor, I’m fairly certain my shed dogs will be able to identify mine or any other scent and the concentrated antler scent applied the dummy or antler. They will smell all of them…but separately.
When I hear folks tell me that you have to wear rubber gloves when training a shed dog in order to keep scent off of the antler, my question to them is…”have you ever smelled a rubber glove?” If I handle the antlers wearing rubber gloves, they will smell like…rubber gloves. And once you touch something else with the rubber glove (dummy or antler with saliva, etc) won’t your rubber gloves then just smell like whatever it is you’ve touched? Trust me, your dog will smell that as well! A rubber glove smell is just as unnatural to a shed as a human hand smell. I’ve often wondered why you don’t see the guys that say you need to train shed dogs with rubber gloves training their bird dogs using rubber gloves to handle canvas bumpers or duck dummies?
Don’t think that I not concerned or sensitive to the idea that my dog is going to smell my scent, their scent, the scent of everything around or in contact with that particular dummy or antler when I’m training. I certainly don’t go out of my way to rub my hands all over it or intentionally add un-natural scents to it prior to training. Remember, attempting to eliminate the un-natural scent by washing, will also minimize any natural scent as well. I realize that there will always be other scent there, and no matter how hard I try, I’m not fooling my dog or their nose. I think the important thing to remember is that your dog’s sense of smell is so incredible and capable of separating different layers of scent that you’re not going to trick him with a little Irish Spring and water, but instead be happy that you’ve got your pup using their nose to find the shed.
By Jeremy Moore
Owner: DogBone Products