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Categories: Search & Rescue

Q. My Search & Rescue dog has been skunked twice now, will she ever learn to avoid these critters?

I have an operational SAR air scent golden retriever in the state of Virginia. I spent hours in the wilderness both training and on SAR missions.

My dog has been skunked twice in her life so far. The first time was at 6 months and most recently at 4 years of age. I'm always prepared and have the necessary recipe on hand to deal with removing the skunk oil and odor. My question is: Will she ever learn to avoid these critters? She lives with three cats at home and I often wonder if I have done her a disservice by socializing her with animals other than K9s. She does not chase deer or squirrels. Both skunk incidences have occurred at night out of my sight. I can only assume both times her curiosity took her in too close.

Fredericksburg, VA

A. If the experience of being skunked is unpleasant enough for her, MAYBE she'll learn. I know that some of my friends have dogs that have been quilled by porcupines time after time and skunked repeatedly, so I'm not sure that most dogs put 2 and 2 together about this.

I have hand raised baby skunks in the past and I know they are slow moving, and you DO NOT want to startle them. :) I'm sure that your dog probably happened upon a skunk and it reacted instinctively. You don't have to get all that close to a skunk to be hit by their spray, unlike a porcupine where the dogs have to almost make contact with the animal.

The only way I would know how to create avoidance of skunks permanently would be to pair the skunks scent with an aversive like an ecollar. You would basically teach the dog when she got the slightest whiff of skunk to avoid the area. I believe it would carry over to running across a skunk on a search.

I hope this helps.

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