Smart Nose vs. Dumb Nose – A Tale of Two Doggies

Sniffing Dog

I smell something good. Now what do I do?

Shadow was reportedly a hound mix. And that seemed to be borne out by her behavior.

On walks, Shadow would travel with her nose to the ground until she caught a new scent. Then she’d pull like crazy until she caught up to it.

When Shadow was absorbed in a scent, she could focus on nothing else. I remember even waving cheese in front of Shadow’s nose but all the brain cells were already occupied with the other scent. She couldn’t be shaken free.

The funny thing about Shadow’s powerful nose was that she wasn’t quite smart enough to know what to do with the information. She was simply driven to gather it.

When we played games where we hid treats, Shadow enjoyed using her nose to find them. But she took a long time to figure out how to get the treats. She just couldn’t match the nose to the brain.

Golden Retriever Puppy Plays with Toy

Just...a...few...more...tugs. I got it!

Honey has always been fed from a food toy–first a plastic soda bottle, than a Tug-a-Jug or Squirrel Dude. She’s had to use her nose to figure out where her food is and her brain to figure out how to get to it.

When our training class explored nose work, Honey found the hidden treat quickly and immediately set upon knocking the container around to try to release the food.

But I saw the full potential for Honey’s powers the other day.

I waited until Honey was occupied in the backyard before getting a piece of turkey bacon out of the fridge. I took it upstairs and put it in her crate–just to keep sending the message that her crate is a great place to be.

When Honey came back in the house two minutes later, she immediately smelled the turkey bacon in the air. She followed the scent to the foyer, figured out the direction it went, and started up the stairs. Honey had followed the scent and found the treat in her crate in less than 20 seconds!

I know Shadow would have found the scent too. But I don’t think she would have made the connection that it might mean there is something yummy waiting for her somewhere else in the house.

What does this mean? Heck, I don’t know. I’ll leave it to the scientists to explore applied problem solving in dogs. But it’s been cool to watch.

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