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Scent work improves dog behaviour, research reveals
The tasks tested the dogs' inhibitory control, which improves dogs' problem-solving skills.
Dogs with scent training showed improved mental ability.

A new study has suggested that scent training could improve pet dogs’ abilities to complete cognitive tasks.

The research, conducted by scientists at Aberystwyth University, found that dogs trained to detect smells had an improved mental ability and better capacity to perform tasks.

Previous research had found that dogs with advanced training, such as assistance dogs, had a better mental ability than untrained pet dogs. However, it did not explore how training pet dogs may advance their ability to complete cognitive tasks.

This study aimed to explore how simpler, pet dog training could also affect dogs’ behaviours.

The research team assessed how well 40 dogs, trained to various levels, performed in two tasks that tested their impulse control.

Their first task was a ‘detour task’, which confronted the dogs with a transparent barrier between them and a bowl of food. The dog then needed to navigate a detour around the barrier to reach the food.

The second task was the ‘A-not-B’ task. This involved three plant pot covers being placed in front of the dog, with food being visibly placed under one of them. Without prompts, the dog then needed to remember which cover had food underneath it.

Dogs which had received scent training were found to perform better at the tasks than those which hadn’t. This suggested that this additional training had helped their impulse control to complete specific tasks.

The tasks were designed to test the dogs’ inhibitory control, which has been proven to improve dogs’ problem-solving skills.

This can also link to dogs’ behaviour, as poor impulse control can be linked to unwanted behaviours like inappropriate toileting or destructive behaviour.

Dr Sarah Dalesman, co-supervisor of the project, said: “This research shows that dogs that train primarily in scent work have stronger inhibitory control, suggesting that this training can have a positive effect on their behaviour.

“Scent training is offered by a lot of dog trainers, and easy to practice at home. It might offer a great way for owners to improve their pet’s behaviour, and we’re aiming to test this theory in future studies.”

The full study can be found in the journal Animals.

Image © Shutterstock

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Bristol uni celebrates 75 years of teaching vets

News Story 1
 The University of Bristol's veterinary school is celebrating 75 years of educating veterinary students.

Since the first group of students were admitted in October 1949, the school has seen more than 5,000 veterinary students graduate.

Professor Jeremy Tavare, pro vice-chancellor and executive dean for the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, said: "I'm delighted to be celebrating Bristol Veterinary School's 75 years.

"Its excellence in teaching and research has resulted in greater understanding and some real-world changes benefiting the health and welfare of both animals and humans, which is testament to the school's remarkable staff, students and graduates." 

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News Shorts
RCVS HQ to temporarily relocate

The headquarters of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is to move temporarily, ahead of its permanent relocation later in the year.

From Monday, 26 February 2024, RCVS' temporary headquarters will be at 2 Waterhouse Square, Holborn, London. This is within walking distance of its current rented offices at The Cursitor, Chancery Lane.

RCVS have been based at The Cursitor since February 2022, following the sale of its Westminster premises the previous March.

However, unforeseen circumstances relating to workspace rental company WeWork filing for bankruptcy means The Cursitor will no longer operate as a WeWork space. The new temporary location is still owned by WeWork.

RCVS anticipates that it will move into its permanent location at Hardwick Street, Clerkenwell, later on in the year.