A Gardenia clasped by any other clothespin would smell as sweet.

While practical experience and analysis are the best teachers, they do not automatically teach a good understanding of fundamental principles. When trainers are rule-driven or limit their study to accepted applications they can miss important aspects of any training topic. This is a general scent project that will teach you well beyond anything you’re going to get from any single tradition of scent work.

Pick a scent, any scent. I prefer store-bought exotic scents used in air-fresheners – the kind that has a glass vial and a wick. Pick something that doesn’t exist in your house – like plumaria or gardenia.


Get a Q-tip. Dip it in the scent. Wave it in front of your dog’s nose. Wait five seconds. Say “Sit” – or down or any other behavior the dog knows. Give a treat. If you don’t use treats, skip this post, it’s not for you. Repeat 20 times, minimum.

As the dog starts to anticipate the sequence you won’t get a chance to say the command during your five second delay. The dog is going to cut to the chase as you swing the scent forward. At that point the scent is becoming a command. However, it will take a couple of hundred reps to start making this a functional command. Don’t try to work on speed at this point. Once the dog is responding somewhat to the scent, he/she has 30 seconds to do the behavior. If that doesn’t happen at 30 seconds, say ‘wrong’ and no treat…OR get the behavior to happen – say the command, the dog does it, click and offer the treat. Repeat until the scent is reliably causing the behavior to happen.

If you wish, you can name the scent at this point by simply saying “Gardenia” (or whatever) BEFORE you make the Q-tip available. If you are totally dependent on cues, simply hold the Q-tip behind your back. Say “Gardenia” wait five seconds and THEN move it to the dog’s nose. (That triggers the behavior, click then treat. If not, say “wrong”) Repeat a bunch.

1) Offer an identical Q-tip with no scent. If the dog does the behavior, say “Wrong” and then offer the correct scent.
2) Once Number 1 has taught the dog that SOME scent (other than cotton and paper) is required to do the behavior, switch to other scents – never rewarding them.
3) Put the Q-tip in the jaws of a clothes pin to stand it up on a table. Hold it in your
Clothespinshand at first and then move it to the table. Do about ten reps close to the table then start inching away for the treat delivery. Within 20 more reps the dog is going five or six feet to the table and checking the scent. (Note: This removes your hand motion as part of the cue. )
4) Go back to switching scent vs. no scent vs. other scent.
5) Teach the dog to go to two sequential Q-Tips. Then make a scent trail of dots. Continue to use ‘wrong’ for errors.

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