• Emma Johnston

Can what you wear affect your Training?

I have been lucky enough to work with some wonderful people and dogs over the many years I have been a Professional Dog Trainer.

With those many years of experience has come many outfits and shoes etc that have not always been the best choice when it comes to training, think strong dog and high heels!!

However, I am not talking about dress choices, I am talking about something invisible.

I’m talking about Perfumes, Aftershave and Hand Creams all things that we often spray on our wrists or rub on our hands.

Dogs have the most incredible nose as we all know. They are adapted to function much better than ours.

Their nose has over 300 million receptors unlike our mere 6 million, and a dog’s part of the brain dedicated to processing that scent information is a whopping 40 times larger than ours.

Dog's noses have two primary uses, smell and respiration.

Research shows that the canine nose has the ability to separate breathing from smelling and they can do this at the same time, unlike us humans. This means they have a continuous circulation of air…. clever right??

Dogs have an organ called the vomeronasal organ, it helps detect pheromones in other dogs such as the scent of a bitch in season, something we are unable to smell at all, but for anyone who has a seen a male dog catch the scent of a bitch in heat…they most certainly can.

With this microscopic bit of information about the power of the canine nose, have you ever thought about how fake scents could possibly put your dog off of training?

I have quite a sensitive nose for a human and I remember going into a big department store about a year ago. As I walked in, there was a fragrance counter and boy did it make my head pound.

The strong smells that I encountered for just a small period of time were too much and I had a very painful headache the rest of the day and I could not get the smell out of my nose for quite some time after leaving, and that’s with my not so superior human nose.

Now let’s look at this from your dog’s point of view.

You are engaging and Training or playing with your dog and you give a hand signal, does that hand signal produce a smell of perfume or aftershave that we can smell? If so whoa how strong is that to your dog?

What about when you feed your puppy or dog some food or treats, that hand comes right under that sensitive canine nose?

Whilst the treat or reinforcer is lovely, the perfume, aftershave or even hand cream on your hands probably isn’t so reinforcing to your dog, could it be that the strong scent is even devaluing the reward??

I have always tried to consider such things when I am training and working with dogs which is why I don’t use any perfumes or body sprays or hand creams when working with client’s dogs or even my own.

Now I want to be clear, we live in a world full of fake smells, shower gel, deodorant, floor cleaner, washing tablets, air fresheners, you name it its everywhere and I am not suggesting we go totally scent-free.

I am focusing on the things that get presented right under your dog’s shnoz (as I like to call them)

I try my best to ensure that a dog doesn’t ever see anything negative from a hand coming towards and I often think that a strong fake scent under their nose just might be a bit off-putting.

After all, I think we can safely say that given the choice, dogs wouldn’t choose Chanel or Tierre Mugler, they would choose dead animal carcass and fox poo.

So, when you work and interact with your dog just remember that a dog’s primary way of learning is through smell, and is that smell possibly acting more aversive then rewarding