Sighthound vs Scenthound
Greyhound owners know their dogs are members of the sighthound family (also known as gazehounds). That is, a dog that primarily hunts by keen eyesight and speed. Other breeds of dog in this family include the Borzoi, Saluki, Afghan and Whippet to name a few.
Scenthounds hunt by smell and endurance and are regarded as having some of the most sensitive noses among the canines. Breeds in this family include the Beagle, Bloodhound, Foxhound, Basset Hound, Dachshund and Basenji.
The Dog Nose!
Smell is the primary sense of all dogs and it is their way of interpreting the world they live in. It is estimated that their noses are over a thousand times more sensitive than that of humans! In fact, a dog has more than 200 million olfactory receptors on its nose (depending on the breed) while humans have a mere 5 million. Also a much larger percentage of their brain is devoted to identifying and analysing scents than in humans. Because of this dogs are used by many services to sniff out anything from bombs and contraband to lost people and bodies. There are even reports of some dogs sniffing out cancer in humans! It is thought that dog’s nose prints are as unique and individual as human’s fingerprints.
As sighthounds we don’t give Greyhounds enough credit for using their noses except to smell out treats. Nobody expects them to become working dogs detecting drugs at the airport but there are some activities you can participate in that encourage your dog to use its natural olfactory talents.
Nose work, also known as scent work or search work is any activity where a dog uses its nose to locate a hidden target scent or odour. It is a relatively new sport for companion dogs but the basic training is along similar lines to that of border patrol or other service detector dogs. It is not physically taxing on the dog or the owner but it is fun and mentally stimulating. In Australia there are some dog clubs offering nose work training. In Sydney, the Australian Dogs Sports Club runs some related seminars and workshops throughout the year.
The excellent US publication, Celebrating Greyhounds Magazine, ran an interesting article in the spring 2012 issue explaining how pet Greyhounds were actively participating in nose work with some entering trials and going on to win titles. Click here to view the article “Put that needle nose to work”. It contains some interesting links to US websites.
Tracking is a more active sport than nose work. Any breed of dog can participate but it does require a reasonable fitness level of both dog and owner. It involves getting your dog to follow a human scent trail over varied terrain while ignoring any distractions such as the scent of other people or animals. The dog must wear a tracking harness and work at the end of a 10 metre lead. In Australia tracking is not done during the summer months due to the heat and the danger of snakes. Many dog obedience clubs have tracking groups and most states have specific tracking clubs that run workshops and training days. They also run trials where your dog can gain tracking dog titles.
In this state there is the Tracking and Rescue Dog Club of NSW. Margaret Keast is the current club President and in the past actively tracked with her Greenhound Sparky. Margaret has Certificate IV in Companion Animals Services and is a Greenhound Assessor so has a broad understanding of the Greyhound breed. She has written several articles on tracking which can be viewed on the club’s website.
Margaret says “Tracking is rewarding and challenging in many ways. One way is that you can't force tracking out of a dog, you can only guide and encourage. It's one of the positive training methods (there are a number of them). Greyhounds as a breed also respond to positive training. So there should be more Greys out there doing tracking. Mind you, every now and then Sparky would stop and look at me as if to say “I’m a Sighthound NOT a Scenthound!” Occasionally Sparky likes to do zoomies at the end of the tracking lead. By the time she’s finished, she and everyone in sight have a grin from ear to ear, with the track all but forgotten.”
Margaret and Sparky in action.
So if you are looking for some fun recreation activities for you and your dog, get your Greyhound to use its amazing nose and sniff out a club near you.
Tracking and Rescue Dog Club of NSW www.trackingclubnsw.org.au
Australian Canine Sports and Training Centre www.lovesdogs.com.au
Celebrating Greyhounds Magazine www.adopt-a-greyhound.org/cgmagazine