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Behavioral and Cognitive Factors That Affect the Success of Scent Detection Dogs

Camille A. Troisi, Daniel S. Mills, Anna Wilkinson, and Helen E. Zulch, 2019

The new book of the dog - a comprehensive natural history of British dogs and their foreign relatives, with chapters on law, breeding, kennel management, and veterinary treatment (1911) (14577065369)
Bloodhound, who won championship honors, 1911

Scent detection dogs are used in a variety of contexts; however, very few dogs successfully complete their training, and many others are withdrawn from service prematurely due to both detection accuracy issues in the field and wider behavioral issues. This article aims to review our understanding of the factors affecting variation in scent detection dogs’ learning of the tasks and performance in the field. For this we deconstructed the scent detection task into its key behavioral elements and examined the literature relating to the factors affecting variation in the dogs’ success all across their development. We first consider factors that affect individuality and individual performance, in general, such as temperament, arousal, the handler–dog relationship, training regimes, and the housing and management of scent detections dogs. We then focus on tasks specific to scent detection dogs and critically appraise relevant literature relating to the learning and performance of these tasks by dogs. This includes prenatal and early life exposure and later environment, training regime, and the human–dog relationship, as well as performance limiting factors such as the need to pant in hot environments during work.

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