Catahoula Issues » Scenting  

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There have been some questions raised from time to time about the scenting ability of the Catahoula. As with any other long nosed breed, the Catahoula has the inert ability to detect a specific scent, categorize it, and recall it to memory. This ability is a hereditary trait. It's one of those genetic factors that is present in all dogs. All dogs have the ability to scent, but not all of them utilize it to its full potential. It isn't necessary for the house dog to use its nose to that level. Anything it wants is in reach or is given to them. As for the yard dog, it has the same situation, only it has the experience of varying odors passing through the yard, without being able to get out to investigate them. This is one of the reasons that some people lose their dogs. The dog scents a peculiar odor, and goes to investigate it. The owner says the dog just ran off, but the truth is, the dog is trying to find out where that particular odor originates.

A study by G. Geiger, in 1972, of German Wire-Haired Pointers, proved that scenting ability is inherited at 39% and tracking ability at 46%. This study included 613 males and 573 females. These percentages may not seem like a lot to some people, but consider the whole dog. This is indeed a major inherited factor.

If this is such a great inherited factor, then why don't dogs use their noses more? This question always leads to a discussion of certain dogs, noses, actions and reactions. The truth is that the dog uses its nose more than any other faculty. Consider the newborn pup. When it is born, it can't see or hear. It doesn't begin to hear until it's 10 days old, and then only muffled sounds. Its eyes will open at 14 days of age, but can't focus until it is 3 weeks old. Well, how does this pup survive? It survives by its nose. It can locate the source of its food, Mother, any time it's hungry or when she is present. The nose is the first thing that begins to work on a dog, and it's the last faculty to be lost. It may lose eyesight and hearing as it gets older, but it never loses its ability to smell.

Some dogs will work better than others, but its not because they can't smell or scent. It's because their trainer has not figured out how to read the body language of the dog, or that the dog has not been properly trained to give an indication of the desired scent to the trainer. Discussions will lead to this dog does that, or that dog does this, and a pat answer is expected. There is no pat answer. Some dogs enjoy doing scent work and believe it's a game. Other dogs, any breed, just don't enjoy the game and will not perform as well as those that do. This doesn't mean that particular dog that doesn't enjoy the game cannot scent, it only means it doesn't want to play. Will it pass that attitude on to its puppies? Maybe is the best answer. I can point out to you that in the litter that produced my Search and Rescue dog, Ladyhawke, one of them went on to work hogs, one became a protection dog, two worked cattle, and the rest were pets. Noses and attitudes. It all works together. Training plays an important part of all of this, but the trainer must be able to teach the dog to give an indication of the desired scent. The dog can already smell it.

Studies have shown that a dog's Olfactory nerve provides the dog the ability to detect scents at a rate of one in one trillion. Placed in numbers it looks like this: 1 in 1,000,000,000,000. There have been other studies that show one in 10 quadrillion. The variance depends on the chemical makeup.

In their book "Scent" by Milo Pearsall and Hugo Verbruggen, they make the following statement: "One of the substances released by human perspiration is butyric acid. If one gram were spread throughout a 10 story building, a person could smell it at a window only at the moment of release. (The human would acclimate to the odor). If the same amount were spread over the entire city of Philadelphia, a dog could smell it from anywhere, even to an altitude of 300 feet. In conclusion, it only requires the presence of a person or animal to put enough scent to be detected by a dog."

The Catahoula is predisposed to "Air Scenting." That is, it will sniff the ground only long enough to determine the direction of travel of its game. When the odor of its prey is present in the air currents, the Catahoula will lift its head, sniff the direction of the odor, and head straight for it. This is called "Air Scenting." They will take the shortest route to reach the source of the odor. In a Search and Rescue dog this is a desired trait. Lost persons are at risk of dying, and the dog will get there faster and maybe save lives by "Air Scenting."

In the hunting dog this is also a desirable trait, as it will reduce the amount of time it uses to track, back track, and retrack to determine where the game is located. The Catahoula will make that determination for you. How? It's called "Scent Concentration." When a dog is sniffing the ground, it is making a determination of where the prey has been. When it sniffs the air, the concentration of scent is stronger. This is because the animal is closer, and more of the scent can be detected. This is what most trackers refer to as a "Hot Scent." When the dog detects the Hot Scent, it will move directly toward the source.

Next time you see your dog darting around frantically, don't be surprised if it isn't scenting something that you can't smell.

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