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An investigation on the olfactory capabilities of domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)

Abstract

The extraordinary olfactory capabilities in detection and rescue dogs are well-known. However, the olfactory performance varies by breed and search environment (Jezierski et al. in Forensic Sci Int 237:112–118, 2014), as well as by the quantity of training (Horowitz et al. in Learn Motivation 44(4):207–217, 2013). While detection of an olfactory cue inherently demands a judgment regarding the presence or absence of a cue at a given location, olfactory discrimination requires an assessment of quantity, a task demanding more attention and, hence, decreasing reliability as an informational source (Horowitz et al. 2013). This study aims at gaining more clarity on detection and discrimination of olfactory cues in untrained dogs and in a variety of dog breeds. Using a two-alternative forced choice (2AFC) paradigm, we assessed olfactory detection scores by presenting a varied quantity of food reward under one or the other hidden cup, and discrimination scores by presenting two varied quantities of food reward under both hidden cups. We found relatively reliable detection performances across all breeds and limited discrimination abilities, modulated by breed. We discuss our findings in relation to the cognitive demands imposed by the tasks and the cephalic index of the dog breeds.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful for the Startup-funding of Taipei Medical University (108-6402-004-112) and the Taiwan Ministry of Science and Technology research grant (110-2311-B-038-002) awarded to CDD. We thank Guillaume Dezecache, Ph.D., for comments on the manuscript.

Funding

This study was funded via the Ambizione Fellowship of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) (PZ00P3_154741), the Startup-funding of Taipei Medical University (108-6402-004-112) and the Taiwan Ministry of Science and Technology (110-2311-B-038-002) awarded to CDD.

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Contributions

EF: study design, data collection, acquisition of resources; CDD: study design, analysis and interpretation, writing article.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christoph D. Dahl.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. The authors have no affiliations with or involvement in any organization or entity with any financial interest, or non-financial interest in the subject matter or materials discussed in this manuscript.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed, i.e., the Swiss law on animal protection and welfare. This study was approved by the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office (approval number VD3383) for experiments conducted in Switzerland. According to the local authorities (Comité d’Ethique de l’Expérimentation Animale Grand Campus Dijon, Université de Bourgogne, Maison de l’Université, Esplanade Erasme, 21078 Dijon, France), non-invasive studies on dogs are allowed to be conducted without any special permission in France.

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Ferrando, E., Dahl, C.D. An investigation on the olfactory capabilities of domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Anim Cogn (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-022-01640-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-022-01640-6

Keywords

  • Olfaction
  • Dog
  • Canis lupus familiaris
  • Quantity
  • Discrimination
  • Detection