When developing a dog for a detection task, we must make behavioral measurements associated with olfactory acuity. To do that you must have an odor source.
Without knowing the dog’s final disposition in a working role, a dilemma is created in finding an odor source. The Australian Customs Service (ACS) used towels with Vegemite in them. These are narcotics dogs, so a dog’s positive indication will be immediately followed by a search. There was a situation where an ACS-bred dog that had completed narcotics training had a positive response on a bag from England and after repeated searches they could not figure out what the dog was “hitting” on. The airport was just around the corner from the breeding center and they called some folks from the center to take a look. The bag contained a product called Oxo that was also a yeast paste like Vegemite. The dog had retained this earlier training even years after being certified for narcotics searches.
The TSA Canine Breeding and Development Center experimented with using anise as an odor source. Now these were going to be explosives detection dogs, so if a dog shows a positive response, the area is cleared and the explosives ordinance disposal teams are called in. Just imagine closing down an airport for a five pound bag of licorice!
So we must be very aware of our odor source and how we handle that odor. Any odor contamination could lead to a dog making associations not only with the target odor, but any possible contaminating odors as well. Your personal odor, your soaps, your colognes could all impact the dog’s nose catalog.
We are working with Florida International University to use a special odor for measuring and developing olfactory acuity in purpose raised dogs:the universal detection calibrant.
This odor will reduce risks associate with early odor work against adult dog deployment. It is safe to work with and distribute. The odor is rare in an operational environment. That being said, you must still be cautious in the handling and storage to minimize odor contamination.
I am using disposal nitrile gloves for handling the product and storing the odors in their own individual containers (glass sealed jars).