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Canine Olfaction: Scent, Sign, and Situation

Chapter

Abstract

Canine olfaction is a rich field of study for the behavioural sciences and neurosciences, and it is rich in interdisciplinary connections. This chapter will explore the neurocognitive and neuroconative bases of olfaction (the neurophysiological foundations of cognition and motivation), and discuss the behavioural, psychological, and semiotic dimensions of scent processing. It will cover the basic psychophysics of olfaction and the methodologies allowing us to explore this sensory modality, as well as the complex cognitive and motivational dimensions of scent. This chapter will open with an overview of the different disciplines involved in the study of canine olfaction. Some basic anatomy and neuroscience will be reviewed, mostly with direct reference to behaviour and associated psychological processes (e.g., cognitive, motivational, and affective systems). For the behavioural aspect of olfaction, a discussion of the contrasting, yet complementary methods of ethology and experimental psychology will be examined. The importance of both field and laboratory research will be highlighted. Olfaction “in context” will also be discussed in reference to zoosemiotics and in order to understand the canine olfactory psychoethology in its most meaningful and functional dimension: processing “signs” (including symptoms as with dogs trained for biomedical applications such as symptom detection). We will conclude with a short commentary on the human-canine sensory symbiosis with sniffer dogs.

Keywords

Signal Detection Theory Olfactory System Crime Scene Breath Sample Olfactory Cortex 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgements

Sincere thanks to Alexandra Horowitz for inviting us to participate in this exciting project. Thank you to all the dogs and their owners that participated in our research over the years, the many hundreds of volunteers working in the lab, Honours and graduate students (for a full list, see http://gadbois.org/simon/team.html). Simon Gadbois wants to take the opportunity to thank the many mentors who inspired him over the years, “in order of appearance”: Louis Gadbois, Ward O’Neill, Marvin Krank, Werner Honig, Vincent LoLordo, John Fentress, Peter McLeod, William Moger, and Fred Harrington. You have no idea how much you all contributed to shape and focus that mind of mine and force it to always want to synthesize and keep an open mind, and like coyotes, be happy to be a generalist.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Neuroscience InstituteDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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