Scent Work

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Gerald of Wales [Itinerarium Cambriae (1191). The Journey Through Wales, book 1, end of chapter 7]:

"I do not think it superfluous to insert here an example which Suetonius gives in his book on the nature of animals, and which Ambrosius also relates in his Exameron. "A man, accompanied by a dog, was killed in a remote part of the city of Antioch, by a soldier, for the sake of plunder. The murderer, concealed by the darkness of the morning, escaped into another part of the city; the corpse lay unburied; a large concourse of people assembled; and the dog, with bitter howlings, lamented his master's fate. The murderer, by chance, passed that way, and, in order to prove his innocence, mingled with the crowd of spectators, and, as if moved by compassion, approached the body of the deceased. The dog, suspending for a while his moans, assumed the arms of revenge; rushed upon the man, and seized him, howling at the same time in so dolorous a manner, that all present shed tears. It was considered as a proof against the murderer, that the dog seized him from amongst so many, and would not let him go; and especially, as neither the crime of hatred, envy, or injury, could possibly, in this case, be urged against the dog...

Pliny and Solinus relate that a certain king, who was very fond of dogs, and addicted to hunting, was taken and imprisoned by his enemies, and in a most wonderful manner liberated, without any assistance from his friends, by a pack of dogs, who had spontaneously sequestered themselves in the mountainous and woody regions, and from thence committed many atrocious acts of depredation on the neighbouring herds and flocks. I shall take this opportunity of mentioning what from experience and ocular testimony I have observed respecting the nature of dogs. A dog is in general sagacious, but particularly with respect to his master; for when he has for some time lost him in a crowd, he depends more upon his nose than upon his eyes; and, in endeavouring to find him, he first looks about, and then applies his nose, for greater certainty, to his clothes, as if nature had placed all the powers of infallibility in that feature.


In Of English Dogs by Johannes Caias in "Of the Dogge called a Bloudhounde..." has a discussion of the tracking of missing cattle and cattle thieves with blood hounds. Of the Dogge called a Bloudhounde in Latine Sanguinarius. The greater sort which serue to hunt, hauing lippes of a large syze, & eares of no small lenght, doo, not onely chase the beast whiles it liueth, (as the other doo of whom mencion aboue is made) but beyng dead also by any maner of casualtie, 5 make recourse to the place where it lyeth, hauing in this poynt an assured and infallible guyde, namely, the sent and sauour of the bloud sprinckled heere and there vpon the ground... And albeit peraduenture it may chaunce, (As whether it chaunceth sealdome or sometime I am ignorant) that a peece of fleshe be subtily stolne and cunningly conuayed away with such prouisos and precaueats as thereby all apparaunce of bloud is eyther preuented, excluded, or concealed, yet these kinde of dogges by a certaine direction of an inwarde assured notyce and priuy marcke, pursue the deede dooers, through long lanes, crooked reaches, and weary wayes, without wandring awry out of the limites of the land whereon these desperate purloyners prepared their speedy passage. Yea, the natures of these Dogges is such, and so effectuall is their foresight, that they cã bewray, seperate, and pycke them out from among an infinite multitude and an innumerable company, creepe they neuer so farre into the thickest thronge, they will finde him out notwithstandying he lye hidden in wylde woods, in close and ouergrowen groues, and lurcke in hollow holes apte to harbour such vngracious guestes. Moreouer, although they should passe ouer the water, thinking thereby to auoyde the pursute of the houndes, yet will not these Dogges giue ouer their attempt, but presuming to swym through the streame, perseuer in their pursute, and when they be arriued and gotten the further bancke, they hunt vp and downe, to and fro runne they, from place to place shift they, vntill they haue attained to that plot of grounde where they passed ouer... 6 ...The owners of such houndes vse to keepe them in close and darke channells in the day time, and let them lose at liberty in the night season, to th’intent that they myght with more courage and boldnesse practise to follow the fellon in the euening and solitarie houres of darkenesse, when such yll disposed varlots are principally purposed to play theyr impudent pageants, & imprudent pranckes. These houndes... beyng restrained and drawne backe from running at randon with the leasse, the ende whereof the owner holding in his hand is led, guyded, and directed with such swiftnesse and slownesse (whether he go on foote, or whether he ryde on horsebacke) as he himselfe in hart would wishe for the more easie apprehension of these venturous varlots. In the borders of England & Scotland, (the often and accustomed stealing of cattell so procuring) these kinde of Dogges are very much vsed and they are taught and trayned up first of all to hunt cattell as well of the smaller as of the greater grouth, and afterwardes (that qualitie relinquished and lefte) they are learned to pursue such pestilent persons as plant theyr pleasure in such practises of purloyning as we have already declared...

and also

Of the Dogge called a Terrar, in Latine Terrarius. Another sorte there is which hunteth the Foxe and the Badger or Greye onely, whom we call Terrars, because they (after the manner and custome of ferrets in searching for Connyes) creepe into the grounde, and by that meanes make afrayde, nyppe, and byte the Foxe and the Badger in such 5#trans_page5sort, that eyther they teare them in peeces with theyr teeth beyng in the bosome of the earth, or else hayle and pull them perforce out of their lurking angles, darke dongeons, and close caues, or at the least through cõceaued feare, driue them out of their hollow harbours, in so much that they are compelled to prepare speedy flight, and being desirous of the next (albeit not the safest) refuge, are otherwise taken and intrapped with snares and nettes layde ouer holes to the same purpose. But these be the least in that kynde called Sagax.

De Canibus Britannieus. Dr Johannes Caius, England, Latin 1570, (‘Of English dogges’) English 1576 - [[2]]

From A Short Treatise of Hunting: Compyled for the delight of Noble men and Gentlemen, by Sir Thomas Cockaine, Knight: The order how to make your Terriars. YOU must make a Trench of seauen yards long, two foote broade within, and then make a crosse Trench ouer the same of fiue yards long, and so little crosse Trenches in the same of an ell long so conueyed, that one run into another, couer al your Trenches with Clods or Turffes, and leaue foure holes open at the ends thereof for ayre. Then put in your Foxe Cub, and at the same hole put in one of your Terriars, and when the same hath found the Cubbe, you may helpe him with another, and if you finde those too weake you may put in the other couple also: but you must make sure that your Terriars at the first be well eased and kill the Cubbe. By that time your Terriars haue kild a dosen Cubbes in this sort in the earth, they will fight very boldly: and being thus made will prooue excellent good. But you must beware that you fight them not if they bee bitten, till they be whole againe. And you must haue speciall care in the seeking out a right kinde of them: for there is great difference in the breede of your Terriars, and great choise to be made of them, both for their hardie fighting and swift running. [[3]]

Tracking trials - a runner takes the pre-determined course, leaving bits of clothing in designated spots for the dog to find along the way, goal is to take the correct route and find all the items, exact details vary between organizations - [[4]]

A video from a group in England that does bloodhound hunts (tracking a human runner), lots of footage of horses jumping fences and hedges, too - [[5]]

K9 Nose Work - start with food/toys in boxes, advance to finding birch/anise/clove scents in 4 different scenarios - containers, interior room, exterior environment, vehicles -

1.) Birch ("Sweet Birch" aka Betula Lenta) 2.) Anise ("Aniseed" aka Pimpinella anisum variety, NOT Star Anise,Illicium verum) 3.) Clove ("Clove Bud" aka Eugenia Caryophylatta or Syzgium Aromaticum) on-leash with any length of leash, usually 5 minute time limit, starting lines marked with tape/cones/etc. and crossing the line starts the timer, 15-20 identical boxes for containers, exterior search area perimeters marked [dogs may leave the search area without any disqualification], interior search areas typically room-sized although adjoining areas (bedroom with attached bathroom) may be one area, 3-5 vehicles of any type (motorcycle to semi), scents always exterior with no need to open any doors

Scent discrimination in AKC Obedience Trials -

  • "The handler presents the judge with an approved set of 5 numbered metal and 5 numbered leather dumbbells referred to as articles. The judge selects one of each, placing them where the handler can reach them, and a ring steward places the rest on the floor or ground approximately 20 feet from the handler, being certain to touch each article. At this point, the dog and handler turn so they are facing away from the articles, and the handler uses his hands to scent either the metal or leather selected articles. The judge takes the scented article without touching it, and places it with the other articles. On the judge's command the handler turns and sends the dog. The dog must go directly to the articles at a brisk trot or gallop, select the article that was scented by the handler, and retrieve it. The exercise is then repeated using the remaining article of the other type." [[8]]
  • Training for scent discrimination trials - [[9]]

Scent discrimination in UKC trials uses artificial scents? Birch, anise, clove, myrrh and vetiver.

Barn Hunt - a fairly new sport for dogs based largely on scent, meant to emulate more of the skills used by vermin-hunting dogs, not just the underground tunnel activities of earthworking!

  • only requires a 20' x 20' area (400 sq ft)
  • uses live rats secured in large-ish ventilated sections of camouflaged PVC pipe with careful concern for their well-being
  • goal is to find the correct number of rats and negotiated the Official Tunnel and a Climb in the time allowed
  • Time varies by level

Level 1, Rat Instinct: 1 minute to determine the tube with the live rat, obstacles not required (two decoy tubes) Level 2, Novice: 2 minutes to find the rat tube and do the tunnel and climb (two decoy tubes, one empty, one bedding) Level 3, Open: 2 min 30 sec to find two tubes with rats and do the T and the C, one rat requires climbing (three decoys) Level 4, Senior: 3 min 30 sec to find 4 rats and do the T and C, one rat requires climbing (four decoys) Level 5, Master: 4 min 30 sec to find 1-5 rats (changes randomly!) and do the T and C to a higher level, (10 total tubes, so 5-9 will be decoys)

[[11]] (watch the Great Dane go through the little tunnel!)

Gulf Wars - [[12]] (requires like coursing with like to avoid injury. Apparently include agility and tracking type activity under what they call coursing...)

Ideas for SCA:

Scent source - artificial vs. handler's scent vs. rat

  • Nosework dogs are trained for artificial scents, starting with birch
  • Obedience trial dogs trained for handler's scent
  • Barn hunt dogs and earthwork dogs trained for live rats (!)
  • Could accommodate both?, just have some birch oil available if a nosework-trained dog wants to play? Probably don't need to worry about "advanced" nosework requiring the other scents at our events

Where is it? - dog searches for the scented item. Possible scenarios:

  • a sheriff looking for stolen property (artificial scent) vs.
  • a lord looking for his own stolen property (handler's scent) vs.
  • a farmer looking for rats (artificial scent vs. rats).
  • combine with agility work a bit like earthwork and barn hunting?

Who did it? - dog picks the "guilty" party out of a crowd like in the story of the murder victim's loyal dog

  • give the "criminal" a scented pouch or glove or other item of "clothing" (handler's scent?)

Where did they go? - dog/dogs trail/track a runner

  • the Pied Piper with his rats? dog that collects the most rats along the way wins?
  • cattle thief leaving behind cow hoof treats?
  • points given to the dog in the lead after each obstacle or turn (a little like the medieval coursing rules?)
  • combine with agility type course - trail the scented rabbit (dragged along/through the course as quickly as possible?