The dog’s sense of smell is a wonderful thing, giving a richness to their life that we have a hard time understanding. It is 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than ours and even the way they breathe is different from the way we breathe. When we inhale we smell and breathe in the same passageway, when a dog inhales there is a fold of tissue just inside their nostril which separates these two functions, about 12 percent of the air goes into a recessed area in the back of the nose where it is analyzed.  (This is the very short version of this process, see article at http://www.pbs.org called Dogs’ Dazzling Sense of Smell by Peter Tyson.)

Most household pets live their lives using their sense of smell and analyzing for fun and to help interpret what is going on in their world. Some household dogs are also participating in a new dog sport called nose work which requires them to use their noses in a new and more discerning way. Anyone who has done this will attest to the fact that all of a sudden their dog becomes much more conscious of what their nose can tell them.

The posts that follow in this category are from dogs that “work” with their noses. These include dogs that have participated in the Nose Work sport, Search and Rescue dogs that help find both living and deceased people, and BARK dogs from a local organization, these dogs are trained or being trained to help find lost pets.

Our animal families are an important part of our family structure but sometimes it is hard to decide just what they want. Their body language is not always understandable and their talking is often just noise to us. So what to do. This is where an animal communicator can help.

Every time I talk to an animal it opens them up to more communication with their person. This makes their life easier and more fulfilled because they know that their person cares about how they  feel. The relationship is now changing for you also since you are granting that animal more space as you acknowledge their feelings and opinions. You now have a feel for the depth your animal has and that they are a unique being, separate from you but connected by love. You will both pay more attention to each other, your animal, knowing that you want to communicate, will listen as you tell them something you want them to know. You knowing that your animal wants to understand what you are saying will take more time to think and say what you want them to know. Your relationship with your animal will never be the same, it will only get better.

I have met people who were afraid to talk to their animals because they feared what they would hear. What if the animal had a complaint and they were not able to do anything about it? Remember that there are always several ways to solve a problem. if you can’t do anything about what they want, tell them why. You can also look at the thing that bothers them the most, for instance, you work all day, your dog wants you home during the day, she wants to move around, get some stimulation because she is very bored with no entertainment.  Your solution could be to have a dog-walker or a neighbor take your dog for a walk during the day. Dog feels less antsy, she gets a walk, burns off some energy and feels wonderful since her person helped her find a way to cope with her problem and you don’t have to go on welfare to take care of your dogs needs. If your animal is very loving with you, believe it, they love you. They have read your emotions since they came to live with you. They know you are not deliberately hurting them, that you are doing the best you can for them, and that you love them and they bask in that love.

Animals that are well cared for have a simpler relationship with love. They love directly and fully with no conditions. They do not see us the way we see ourselves. During a recent communication a cat showed me what she saw when she looked at her person – a being filled with and surrounded by light, exuding love, comfort and care. It was one of the most beautiful loving impressions that I have received from an animal. Her message was simple, “tell her what she looks like, she doesn’t know”. It’s a beautiful picture isn’t it.

Dog 7.  Young hound training to work in SAR about 50 lbs.  Between 1 and 2 years old.

“I am getting so much better at figuring out scent. It is really fun, there are so many layers and so much learning. I now know how the person I am trailing feels, happy, sad or upset, angry or even sick. I am looking forward to trailing someone who is really lost. Once when I was trailing someone and I think they got a little lost, their scent changed to worry and being uncertain then scent came in with relief and then back to normal. Do you think they might have been a little lost for a while?  (I told her yes, or at least not certain where they were)

My person is really good about giving me new people to find. I think this is important, people’s smells change – you know they change with weather also, it is all so fascinating and wonderful. Some of the trailing hounds I’ve met have been very helpful. One of them told me about smelling emotions and gave me some suggestions how to use that information. She said that it is very important on a real search and that I should start becoming more attuned to that now. She said to pay attention to more than the big emotions like fear and anger. The little ones can tell you a lot of things that will make the trailing easier and more reliable. They can help you at decision points because they can give you an idea of what direction they are likely to go. That way you can check out the most likely turn first.

I’m having fun! I like older trails, I feel more settled in, more confident in what I’m doing. I know I am a good trailer and I will get even better and I know that this is something you have a better chance of doing well if you learn all the little things. My person feels the same way so she is giving me lots of chances to learn, I am very lucky.”

Dog 3.  This is Blue who lives with me. He is a large deer Chihuahua in training for Bark. Blue is deaf and has some vision impairment.

“I know what I’m doing now, you are staying with me better – in my head. I try to send you pictures. (Me: I’m not getting them but I can sense when you are on the trail)”

He then sent me a picture of lots of colored dots – they are all very highly focused, a very crisp visual impression for me, he showed me that he experienced these dots as scents. The dots drift around a lot – I asked what happens with the dots when he gets momentarily distracted. He then showed me a much different scent coming out of a bush or off a tree or just a spot on the ground that calls to him to investigate while he investigate. I also see that there is another part of him that is keeping track of the scent that he is following. When he gets done or I call him off he goes right back to the first scent.

“I know what we are doing is just play and practice so I think it’s OK to investigate these side smells. However, on a real hunt I think it would be very important to know who else is out there. There are some smells that scare me so if they show up on a real hunt I want to be very careful. They may have scared the one we are trailing also. If I smell them I can tell you. So, I think I need to practice these side smells also.”

I then asked him how he would let me know when he found a scary smell and he said he would communicate it by talking to me and by body language. He wanted me to know that if he found scary smells it was very important for both of us to know.


Dog 7.  Young hound training to work in SAR about 50 lbs.  Between 1 and 2 years old.

1st session on scent: Jan 27, 2013. (Has not been in training for long)

Question: Do you like to trail and how do you see scent?

I have to trail, it is very important. I have always trailed – now it is my job to refine my natural skill. (At this point she shared with me the feeling of this very strong compulsion to trail something, anything) Deer are the most challenging and fun now.

Question: Asked her if older trails might be more challenging for her.

Older would be good I think – be more interesting and more of a puzzle, I would like that but would like to work up to it. Scent does things as it gets older and if we do this gradually – start with a trail that is just a little bit old and then work up I will learn how scent ages and then I can learn how to follow. I know I am to follow human scent and I, of course, have smelled old and new scent but I’ve never followed a given older scent. If I tried a real old (day or 2) I might not recognize it all the way.

Scent of person made up of lots of different scents = 1 unique scent. As that ages some of the components drop off, this is why I have to practice to follow 1 human scent if it is old. I think learning to follow old human scent would be as good as following deer!!

2nd session on scent: March 14, 2013

If I am in an area that has a lot of wild critter smells especially deer, I would like an overwhelmingly good treat at the end. If you give me a small bite right before we start so I know what my reward will be I think it might help me concentrate better. If I can feel her (she is talking here about her person) mind open in a gentle connection with me and focusing on that one scent, it will help me. Sometimes she is really focusing on critter scent not the main scent and it can distract me a bit.


Dog 6. Bark dog

Dog 6.  Chihuahua mix in training for Bark about 13 lbs.

Question: How do you see scent?

I see swirls. When I trail dogs, I see 2 levels, 1 up, 1 down. The top-level lands on bottom level – have to sort through at end of trail bottom level comes out alone, not much top level. I’m usually given scent of bottom level when finding a dog.

This is a timid dog, so asked him about smells that he gets scared of:

He indicated that he gets scared of unknown smells or sometimes known (coon or deer). He said that it is better to face those smells with his pack, not good alone. When his person gives him a smell to find, he knows that smell is safe so he can go find it.

I asked him to show me what scent does – how does he see it. He showed me swirls like you see in Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night. It’s a lot of work and a lot of fun to trail. He also indicated that trailing is just one of his jobs, he has other important jobs, one of which is spreading love.

Dog 5. SAR Cadaver search dog searches for guns, bullets, shells and cadaver.  He weighs about 12 lbs.

Q: How do you smell, how is it for you?

Dog: He tastes his scents.  When he finds a gun or bullets it’s a metallic taste and the gun is different from bullets.

Cadaver has a lot of different tastes. These tastes are softer and more pleasant than the metallic ones. When they are buried for real there is a very earthy boney compost or decaying scent – very fascinating. He says he has been trained to distinguish human scent from others and that is what he is to find and so he does not tell humans about other stuff he finds. Sometimes he does roll in stuff that smells really good. He really likes his job and loves training and it is exciting when it is real.


Dog 4.  SAR Air Scent dog about 30 lbs.

Q: How do you smell, how is it for you?

Dog: Ribbons of scent, they are like colors.

Q: Asked him to show me what he saw and experienced on a training trail that I had seen him do. His job was to find human, no scent article.

This is what he showed me: I see ribbons of scent, lots of them in various colors.  The one that looks blue to me is human scent. There are also various shades of red, orange, green, grey and brown.  Sometimes one of the other colors of ribbon goes across the blue (human) and wipes it out briefly. When that happens he keeps moving hoping to pick human scent elsewhere. Always finds closest human scent first. He’s faster than his human so he has to go back and show the way but has to always check to make sure human scent he has found stays where he found it. Sometimes it takes a lot of running back and forth.

He added the following: If I am shown a scent article I do the same thing but look for a specific person.  Training is fun – always get treats. Sometimes it’s real and then I don’t get treats. (explanation for those who are not in Search and Rescue: the dog is given a scent article if available, this is something that has the lost person’s scent on it that is not contaminated by some other odor. Search and Rescue dogs will only get treats when they find someone – in training that is a for sure thing – on a real search it does not happen very often. They are often instrumental in helping find a lost person, unless they are present when person is found – no treat.)

This dog also trained for a short period to learn to be  a cadaver dog. He is very happy that his person did not insist he do this, he says that he does not like to find dead bodies.

Dog 3. Bark dog

Dog 3.  This is Blue who lives with me. He is a large deer Chihuahua in training for Bark. Blue is deaf and has some vision impairment, he can see but acts like he is extremely near-sighted, when it is sunny out he walks around with his eyes almost closed.

Question: What is scent – smelling – like for you?

Blue: I like to smell, it tells me about my world. The things I can’t see I can smell. There are dots of ribbons of scent twinning around me and it is very interesting to explore them. Sometimes I use them to navigate.

Q: Trailing, do you understand it?

Blue: Yes that is really fun. This is when I see a direct line.

Q. But you don’t follow it you detour off to explore other scents.

Blue: They are also interesting and have stories and I love to smell all of them but I always know my main scent.

Q: Can we try something this next trail we do? Can you stay focused on the scent I show you?

Blue: Yes, I will try.

Q: Show me how you see scent?

Scent is little dots in a stream floating up and down and to the sides, it blows with the wind but the full scent is always there. Sometimes full scent is wide, sometimes concentrated, or it can be swirly, sometimes it is mixed with another really interesting scent and I get a bit lost in the other scent.


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