Scent Games with your Dog – Training You Can Do At Home

The weather in Toronto can be described in one word: SHIT!

Toronto, ON - 7 Day Forecast - Environment Canada


That pretty much sums up the past 3 weeks, and apparently the next few more. This cold weather has been as hard on the dogs, as it has for me. Keeping them warm, and as comfortable as possible, while getting their exercise in can be a challenge. The younger dogs, especially, need a lot more activity than the older ones. During the freezing temperatures, more time is spent inside, working their brain! This is just as exhausting, if not more, than physical exercise. You’d be surprised!

With Duke entering my life full time, as my forever dog, I quickly noticed his incredible sense of scent. Dobermans’ are known working dogs, and have a very keen sense of smell.

Your average dog’s nose is tens of thousands of times as sensitive to odors as yours.

Dogs’ sense of smell overpowers our own by orders of magnitude—it’s 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute, scientists say. Dogs can detect some odours in parts per trillion.

What does that mean in terms we might understand?
According to the book, Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz, a dog-cognition researcher at Barnard College, while we might notice if our coffee has had a teaspoon of sugar added to it, a dog could detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water, or two Olympic-sized pools worth. Another dog scientist compared their ability to catching a whiff of one rotten apple in two million barrels.

Experts have reported incredible true stories about the acuteness of dogs’ sense of smell. There’s the drug-sniffing dog that “found” a plastic container packed with 35 pounds of marijuana submerged in gasoline within a gas tank.

There’s the black lab stray from the streets of Seattle that can detect floating orca scat from up to a mile away across the rough waters of Puget Sound. Read about it!

Here are a couple fun and easy games you can play with your dog, to get you and your dog introduced to scent detention.


All of these games stress reliance on his nose, not his eyesight.


To avoid confusing your dog, trainers recommend you choose one word which indicates food or dog toys (I’ve started using “SEEK”), and a completely different word for objects with human scent or people themselves (I use “FIND IT”). By doing this, the dog is always clear about WHAT he’s looking for with his nose and will not confuse food scents with human scent. One of the most common problems with using food to teach scent discrimination or tracking is that you must ultimately teach the dog that the food is not what you really meant at all!

Now for the games!


This is the simplest of all games.
1. With food or a toy in only one hand, present both closed hands to the dog.
2. Ask him, “Which one?”

You may improve upon this game by insisting he touch with a paw or scratch lightly at the correct hand before receiving his treat, or simply have his nose bump your hand.
If he gets it wrong, show him the correct hand but DO NOT give the treat. Just try again.

Add lots of dramatic flair to this – dogs love a good show.

This one is great fun for the dog.
1. Show your dog a treat (preferably crunchy) or his favorite toy
2. then place it out of his sight but easily accessible in a dark room.
3. Tell him to SEEK – follow him in to listen for his success which you will praise enthusiastically.

Obviously, the rewards for the dog are multiple – he gets a treat or finds his toy plus a very happy dog parent.   If using a toy, be sure to reward his find with some play before starting again.

When multiple treats or toys are used, this particular game helps to build persistence and trust in the handler. The dog may initially find only 2 out of 3 treats, but he quickly discovers that persistence in searching when you give the SEEK command pays off. He learns to believe you – there really is another one there!

You can increase the difficulty of LIGHTS OUT by hiding the cookies in less accessible places (like in a shoe, or placed on a low shelf.) This can be practiced outdoors as well as in your car, or a parking lot or anywhere else- be creative!

Mrs. Sizzle is a New Fashion Blog for Dog and Animal Lovers Alike

000000000000000Can’t get enough of adorable animal photos? If you want a daily dose of fur, fashion and philanthropy, look no further than Mrs. Sizzle. The site is the brainchild of Suzanne Donaldson, consultant and former executive photo director at Glamour magazine for the past 12 years. She quit her coveted position just this past spring to dedicate herself full time to her new venture and has never looked back. Full of panache and just plain fun, Mrs. Sizzle is a blog that showcases doggy art, chic pet accessories, training and support for animal lovers everywhere.

Suzanne Donaldson (Mrs. Sizzle) and her pups, Edie and Clair © The Dogist
Suzanne Donaldson (Mrs. Sizzle) and her pups, Edie and Clair © The Dogist

With Donaldson’s impressive resume ranging from Interview Magazine to the Robert Mapplethorpe Studio, she lends her dynamic eye to every detail, sharing a universal love of pets and advocating for adoption. The site highlights a ‘Rescue of the Week’ and regularly promotes shelters and charities that help place animals in good homes. Whether featuring Cindy Sherman’s parrot or capturing pets strutting down the runways at Fashion Week, Mrs. Sizzle is bursting with sophisticated enthusiasm and inspiration for all furry (and feathery) creatures.

© The Dogist
© The Dogist
Marc Jacob’s dog Neville © Olivia Bee
Marc Jacob’s dog Neville © Olivia Bee
Vincent Flouret and his dog Max © Vincent Flouret
Vincent Flouret and his dog Max © Vincent Flouret
Gus Van Sant’s dog Milo © Miles Rasmussen
Gus Van Sant’s dog Milo © Miles Rasmussen
© Holly Brookhouser
© Holly Brookhouser

(Via: Feature Shoot)

CBC: Dog shock collars a good tool, says trainer

Electronic collars aren’t inhumane: Duke Ferguson

CBC News Posted: Dec 12, 2013 10:51 AM AT Last Updated: Dec 12, 2013 10:54 AM AT

A local dog trainer isn’t happy with some of the P.E.I. Humane Society’s views on certain dog collars.

The Humane Society calls some collars — such as electronic or shock collars — inhumane.

Dog trainer Duke Ferguson said these collars have helped him train thousands of dogs.

He said they’re a good tool.

Ferguson isn’t pleased the P.E.I. Humane Society and other groups don’t see the collars the same way he does.

Ferguson said he’s heard from clients throughout Canada and in P.E.I. who have not been allowed to adopt dogs because they use the collars.

P.E.I. dog trainer Duke Ferguson says he has clients who have not been allowed to adopt dogs because they use collars some groups consider inhumane. (CBC)

“Not just one, not just two, but numerous, numerous, numerous. Weekly, monthly, I hear it,” said Ferguson.

Local Humane Society officials told CBC News they did not want to do a taped interview at this time.

However, two staff members said the P.E.I. Humane Society doesn’t support the use of pinch collars, choke chains or electronic collars. And they said it’s their policy if people use these collars, they couldn’t adopt an animal.

They would not say if that’s ever happened.

People are divided on the training.

Other humane societies have similar policies and the Canadian Veterinary Medical association said the collars can cause fear and anxiety in animals.

Ferguson doesn’t like the word shock. He gets people to hold the electronic collar in their hands to feel the stimulus.

“It’s a physical touch communicator so I can get the dogs attention on me, so the dog can feel stimulation and associate paying attention to the owner,” he said.

Veterinarian Dr. Alice Crook of the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre at the Atlantic Veterinary College said trainers with advanced skills may be able to use these collars, but they can cause aggression in dogs.

The collars might be OK for trainers with advanced skills, says Dr. Alice Crook of the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre. (CBC)

“The potential for problems with owners who are not so skilled is greater than the potential for a positive impact,” she said.

Crook said the P.E.I. Humane Society is in the right to monitor what training methods people use.

Crook said positive reinforcement like giving a dog food, praise and attention works best.

Ferguson uses those methods too, but said the collars add to that.

He said he’s turned dogs around that were set to be euthanized because of behavioural problems.

Ferguson has an open invitation to the P.E.I. Humane Society to show them his training techniques, he said.


My 2 cents.

As someone who only uses positive reinforcement with my dogs, this makes me physically ill. I don’t think dogs should be knowingly adopted and brought into homes with people who use painful (&outdated)  methods of training.

I don’t want hurt my dog, which is why I’ve chosen positive reinforcement. I’ve also realized (through trial and error of my own) that I get a much better response from the dogs with positive.

Here’s an article where Victoria Stilwell discusses shock collars. Victoria was featured in the Chicago Tribune, where she was interviewed by Pet World’s Steve Dale. In the article, she discusses how to choose a good dog trainer and the details of her new book, but especially delves into the dangers of electronic collars. Although the collars have been popularized recently in Hollywood, Victoria explained the physical and emotional dangers of electronic collar training. Read the article here.

I have seen  over and over, negative results of using tools such as shock collars, prong/pinch collars and other negative training tools. Even when owners don’t see it, there have been times I’ve caught it. …

For a few studies done on the short & long term effect of shock collar training, visit this site. Interesting info, so please share.

Here are a few photos demonstrating  what a shock collar has the ability to do:

The Kingsbrook Animal Hospital posted this on their blog, to inform clients of what shock collar burn looks like. OUCH. (Click photo to read more)
A canine victim of a shock collar with bad burns all over it’s throat, along with the collar itself.
Faulty shock collars, or misuse of shock collars can cause serious and painful burns to dogs’ necks due to continuous repeated shocking.