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The canine’s sense of smell is 100,000 times better than a human’s. Or is it 1,000, or perhaps just 100 times better? A dog can detect the addition of a single drop of an odor to an Olympic size swimming pool; but, so could you. Discussions in the popular media surrounding dogs’ olfactory abilities are often more myth than science. This presentation will focus on the last 100 years of empirical research concerning canine olfactory abilities, and discuss what the scientific literature has determined to be the dog’s capabilities, and how dogs use their nose. The presenter will also provide a high-level overview of the mechanisms of olfaction, discuss what smells are, and how our sensory system generally detects them. He will also show how the dog’s sensory system differs for ours, and will attempt to address the harder question: What do the differences mean? The presentation will touch on the effects of training on olfactory perception, detection abilities, and how it can even change the way dogs perceive complex odor mixtures. As with any consideration of a research topic, be prepared to leave with as many questions as were answered. Learning Objectives: Define an odor as a physical stimulus. Describe how an odor is detected and transcribed as a signal to the brain. Describe morphological features that distinguish the canine olfactory pathway from a human’s. Identify how dogs can be tested to probe their sensitivity and describe some of the complexities associated with it. Describe where a dog’s olfactory sensitivity lies in comparison to other mammals. Describe how experience and learning influence olfactory perception. Implement classical conditioning procedures associated with faster acquisition and olfactory sensitivity. Describe how dogs perceive odor mixtures and articulate the implications for training dogs to find variable odor mixtures.
Speaker(s):Dr. Nathan Hall