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The smell of success

Name: Kelly Gorman Dunbar, from San Francisco

Animal: Kiko, a cross-bred terrier

Problem: Kelly is visiting Ireland to teach about dogs' remarkable sniffing ability

Most people know that dogs can be taught remarkable skills by dedicated, knowledgeable trainers. Kelly is here to show Irish dog trainers how to use a new way of teaching dogs: using their astonishing sense of smell.

Kelly runs a busy dog- training school in California and she's developed world-leading methods of teaching dogs how to use scent detection as part of their daily lives. Dogs have a sense of smell that's somewhere between 1,000 and 100,000 times stronger than our own.

Dogs have evolved to use smell as the main way that they interact with the world: they 'smell' their way around, in the same way that we humans 'see' the world. Proportionally, more than 40 times more of a dog's brain is devoted to scent detection compared to a human, and their noses are full of specialised scent receptors that give them an almost supernatural ability to detect subtle smells.

As well as being able to pick up odours that are undetectable to the most sensitive scientific equipment, dogs seem to have an ability to separate out the various components of a smell. While a human may just appreciate the odour of "beef stew", a dog may be able to appreciate each of the separate components of the stew, noticing meat, celery, carrots, onion and the various ingredients in the gravy, all at one time.


It's like an accomplished musician being able to hear all of the individual instruments in an orchestra when listening to a symphony.

Our understanding of dogs' sniffing ability has increased significantly in the last 20 years, with dogs being used as "working scent detectors".

Police sniffer dogs are used to track humans for all sorts of reasons, from finding escaped prisoners, Alzheimer's patients who have wandered away from home, drink-drivers who have left the scene of accidents, and, of course, people trapped in collapsed buildings in the aftermath of disasters, such as earthquakes.

Everyone has seen sniffer dogs at border entry points, using their noses to find hidden drugs, explosives and other contraband.


More recently, the sense of smell of dogs has been used for medical purposes: dogs can detect bladder cancer and they're used by diabetic patients to alert their owners to hypoglycaemic attacks. Dogs are also used by epileptic patients to detect seizures and are able to drag owners away from busy roads or crowded rooms moments before they have a fit.

All pet dogs can be taught to use their strong sense of smell in simple ways. Kelly is here to show Irish dog owners that their pets can do much more than sit, stay and walk to heel.

There are seminars this weekend at the Dog Training Ireland Centre, Ballycoolin Road, Dublin. Log on to www.dogtrainingireland.ie for details