Obedience to Odor

Photo Brittany Spaniel puppy Saddle demonstrating drive and motivation, the basis of obedience to odor

Our scent detection training is based on obedience to odor. That might sound pretty scary, but it’s all based on rewarding your dog. A dog that’s obedient to odor is obedient to his nose. He’s irresistibly drawn to the target odor and is highly motivated to get to source (the highest concentration of target odor).

Dondi Hydrick explains that a dog who’s obedient to odor is at its “highest peak of anticipation and remain there whenever they have detected one of their odors. And they become so compelled to get go to and stay at the source or as close as physically possible as they can, regardless of where or what their handlers are doing or what is happening around them” (3).

Reporter Saphara Harrell summarized “Training a search and rescue dog runs counter to traditional dog training, where the owner tells the dog what to do and where to go”(1). In an interview with Douglas County Search and Rescue’s K-9 team, Cathy Schneider elaborated

“We are not telling and air scent dog where to go, we tell them what we want them to find and they go out and search the area… We want that dog that will give us the finger and go follow the scent, and not follow us just to follow us” (1).  

Picture obedience to odor like this pig drawn to cookies, from Fimer TV (2):

Obedience to odor is all about rewards. Instead of focussing on “how do I make my dog stay in position” consider “how do I make the target odor so rewarding that the dog would be crazy to leave”. After a long history of many successful searches and rewards, when our dogs encounter odor it makes them feel good. They know the target odor is hidden and they are completely focussed on finding its source! We’ll show you how.


  1. Harrell, Saphara. “K9 Handlers Train” in The News-Review. Downloaded from https://www.nrtoday.com/news/k-handlers-train/article_57661178-d74c-56db-984e-94de68f1f5ef.html
  2. Pig and Cookies. Downloaded from Fimer TV, https://youtu.be/cXWUSwu0r9Q
  3. Hyudrick, Dondi, “Obedience to Odor a Training Methodology”. Downloaded from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/obedience-odor-training-methodology-dondi-hydrick/
About Dr. Carla Simon (132 Articles)
From bed bugs to birds, from narcotics to nosework, Dr. Carla Simon, MD, BSc, MBA has trained thousands of students around the world, since 1999.

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