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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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Reporting service for dead wild birds updated

News Story 1
 The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has updated its online reporting service for dead wild birds.

The new version allows those reporting a dead bird to drop a pin on a map when reporting the location. It also includes a wider range of wild bird species groups to select from when describing the bird.

The online service, which helps APHA to monitor the spread of diseases such as avian influenza, can be accessed here

Click here for more...
News Shorts
NI chief vet urges bluetongue vigilance

Northern Ireland's chief veterinary officer (CVO) has urged farmers to be vigilant for signs of bluetongue, after the Animal and Plant Health Agency warned there was a very high probability of further cases in Great Britain.

There have been 126 confirmed cases of bluetongue virus serotype 3 in England since November 2023, with no cases reported in Northern Ireland. The movement of live ruminants from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is currently suspended.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), the virus is most likely to enter Northern Ireland through infected animals or germplasm (semen or ova) being imported.

Brian Dooher, Northern Ireland's CVO, said: "Surveillance for this disease within Northern Ireland has been increased to assist with detection at the earliest opportunity which will facilitate more effective control measures."

Farmers should report any suspicions of the disease to their private veterinary practitioner, the DAERA Helpline on 0300 200 7840 or their local DAERA Direct Veterinary Office.