Do Dogs Smell Pizza?

Everyone knows that dogs have a superior sense of smell, but what most people don’t understand is that dogs don’t smell like humans smell.

That’s what this article is about. I am writing to help trainers who are just getting started in new dog sports that AKC, CKC, UKC, and the Nosework organizations have started. Depending on the organization, it is either called Scent Work, Nosework, or Scent Detection.

In these sports (and they are all slightly different), dogs are trained to locate and indicate several non-narcotic scents (i.e. Birch, Anise, Clove, etc). Dogs are timed on how long it takes to locate the hidden odors. There are different levels of difficulty.

Before I get into this, I need to explain that I started my career back in the early 1990s with a search and rescue organization and we did a lot of nosework work.

In that case, I will use the pizza analogy, which is when humans go into a pizza restaurant, they smell pizza. When dogs go into a pizza restaurant, they don’t smell pizza; they smell flour, salt, pepper, tomatoes, cheese, etc.

The reason we know this to be true is during our nosework training, we found that we could handlers could hide cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, etc. in the same location from day one of the dog’s foundation training. Then once the dog reached a level of fluency in the work, we could hide just one of those narcotics by itself and the dogs would always indicate on the single narcotic. Knowing this made life a little easier for drug dog handlers that had gone to great lengths to keep their training aides separate.

This same concept applies to the scent work sport. We sell scent work training kits for people who train in various organizations. 

If sport dog trainers follow the pizza protocol in their foundation training, all they need to do is occasionally test their training by hiding one odor by itself. If their training has been correct, their dog will indicate. Then they can sleep better at night. If the dog doesn’t indicate, the dog is not ready for a competition. They just need to go back and continue to work on their foundation training.

Picture of Robert Forto

Robert Forto

Training director for Dog Works Training Company


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