Now Smell This
Our friend LabRat over at AtomicNerds wrote an excellent post a while back on why the mirror test for self-awareness may not be applicable to dogs – or bats. Here’s a little sniff:
Personally, however, I’ve always had an issue with the test, because it depends rather heavily on something humans take for granted- vision as the dominant source of sensory information. The fact that dogs never pass the mirror test is something that is frequently mentioned in dog behavior literature as proof that dogs have no self-awareness, no conception of “I” and “you”, that they just learn from stimulus and response. It’s extremely important for humans to bear in mind that dogs don’t think or feel or remember the way humans do, but I really wonder first if a total absence of self-awareness is a logical assumption to make of a complex social animal, and second if the test is a fair measurement of an animal like a dog. (Or, for that matter, a horse or any other complex social animal that has failed the test but doesn’t put much reliance on its eyes compared to other senses.)
For a dog, smell is the ruling sense, the chief and most reliable source of information. Not only is the sense of smell of the average dog (let alone a hound) at least a hundred times more powerful than it is for humans, it’s gives them even more information than vision does for us, because scent is the only three-dimensional sense- it doesn’t just tell them what’s going on now, it also tells them what happened then. We can approximate it by taking clues from our vision and reasoning through them, but we can’t tell that someone was standing someplace an intermediate period of time ago (but is gone now) without going through that reasoning process and doing CSI tricks. For a dog, this is standard information, part of the way they hunt naturally.
There’s no doubt about it, in a dog’s world, scent is king. Interested in new opportunities to share the fascinating world of scent with your dog? Tired of the same old routine of tracking and hide-and-seek? How about a scratch and sniff book designed just for dogs? Each page in “See Spot Smell” includes a word, picture, and smell that, according to the author, your dog will recognize. Linking scent to reading skills? Wait – is this a ploy to incorporate olfactory learning into a program to teach dogs to read?
I don’t know. Considering where our economy appears to be headed, if I’m going to spend a bunch of time doing scent work with my dog I don’t think I’ll waste it using pictures of cheese to teach him to read - I’m going to train me a MONEY DOG!
According to their press release:
Money Dog’s Dog-Training Money Scent teaches dog to recognize and find cash. Using dogs natural ability to recognize unique scents, this training scent turns the ordinary household pet into a money dog. “Any dog” can detect training scents for deer, rabbits or pheasant. Now your dog can detect this training scent, and detect cash. Money Dog’s Dog-Training Money Scent is perfect for games with your dog, a new tracking and trailing job for your dog, or simply to find cash.
Dog training scents come in many different styles and scents, but Money Dog’s Dog-Training Money Scent is the only dog-training scent which uses real cash to produce the unique scent. Each 4.0 ounce bottle contains an extract of genuine cash, and is re-sealable. Because the training scent is made from cash, the fluid is not for human or animal consumption.
Gen-you-win cash extract! How cool is that? Hmmm, I wonder… if my dog can’t learn to find money using the extract, can I reconstitute it and turn it back into cash?
A money dog sounds like just the ticket. But let’s see how my buddy Audie feels about the program. I’ll get an appropriate book, a piece of cheese and some cash and we’ll see which one he’s interested in: