In our original documentary film, Talent Hounds, we explored the many evolving talents and roles dogs play in society. We are inspired by the incredible time and effort that goes into training a successful drug detection dog. The dog’s incredible sense of smell has been used to find missing people, hidden drugs and even sniff out cancer.
Amazingly dogs can detect some odours in parts per trillion. Some dog breeds possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to only about 5 million in humans. The percentage of a dog’s brain devoted to analyzing smells is also much larger than ours. Dogs separate breathing and sniffing and can wiggle their two nostrils independently. This allows them to sniff out scents very efficiently and to track scent trails to the source.
“Their sense of smell is just beyond our comprehension, and we use that sense of smell for a variety of purposes. Dogs of course, have a natural instinct to hunt and they want to go off to hunt for themselves. They are interested in a meal, they want something to eat. The dramatic change occurred when we were able to train dogs to go off and hunt but not eat what they actually found.” -Dr Bruce Fogle
Humans have found very important roles for our best friends. From hunting partners to more serious roles such as search and rescue and police work.
We filmed Max, a beautiful Belgian Malinois drug detection dog and his trainer Bill Hird. The power, loyalty and intelligence of Malinois breed is favoured by special operations forces and law enforcement all over the world. However, this breed of dog is not a pet for everyone. If you are considering getting a Belgian Malinois do your research .
Max, like any other police dog, has undergone rigorous training to enhance his natural hunt and retrieve drive and sense of smell. All of the dogs are trained using positive reinforcement techniques, such as a toy and praise when they track the scent correctly.
It’s impressive to see how excited Max gets when he has successfully tracked a scent. Although, it may only be a fun game for Max, his role is very important. The substances most commonly trained to detect are drugs and explosives.
We featured another hero dog, Max, who was suitably in the 2015 film entitled Max. The film follows Military dog, Max as he returns home and copes with symptoms of PTSD.
It’s a heart-wrenching film that shows the powerful bond formed between officer and dog.
We also met and filmed a new trainee named Edge, a 14-month-old German Shepherd puppy from Toronto Police Services Canine Unit. After a rigorous screening process, the selected dogs begin training for an additional 15 weeks, learning how to do search and rescue.
The use of dogs in search and rescue is a huge component in tracking, disasters, events with mass casualties, and in searching for missing people. By having the dogs expert help in detecting human scent, people’s lives can be saved and police cases can be solved much faster.
Belgian Malinois, Hounds, Beagles, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers are all great at scent detection. In more recent years there has also been a spike in the number of community members with various dog breeds also joining scent detection and nose work classes for fun. Owners are taught skills used by professionals to detect and alert to a variety of scents. It’s a fun new way to bond with your dog while mentally and physically stimulating them.
Learn more about Scent Training in our previous post exploring the different ways the dogs innate sense of smell is used.
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