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Leerburg Dog Training Blog

The best source for dog training news, tricks and treats, right from world class leaders in dog training.

The best source for dog training news, tricks and treats, right from world class leaders in dog training.

Dogs Don’t 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 a number of 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 was a K9 handler on our local sheriff’s department for 10 years. I was also Chairman of the training committee for the Wisconsin Police Dog Association for several years.  During that time, I testified on narcotics dog training in both state and federal court more times than I can remember. One of our court cases was written about in a police article published in 1995. 

In that case, I used 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 narcotic dog training, we found that we could hide cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, etc. in the same location from day one of the dogs 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 the various organizations. We supply the AKC with the kits they sell on their web site and we just signed a multi-year contract to supply the CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) their scent detection kits. We have been getting emails from new trainers wanting individual once scent  kits for each odor. I have to explain that this is just not a concern.

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.


  1. Avatar
    Phyl Herman
    August 15, 2018

    Once again Ed, Great Article, Goood Information, Well Presented – 3 Cheers for You Guys!

  2. Avatar
    Christine King
    August 15, 2018

    GREAT ARTICLE! VERY INFORMATIVE … in spite of the spelling of flower, I know you meant flour…. hahaha
    Great article, I learned something very interesting today.

Sorry, comments are closed.

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