November 23, 2015

Performance of German Shepherd Dogs on an Odor-Discrimination Task

The researchers compared the performance of Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds (commonly used for their sense of smell in tasks) to Pugs and other toy breeds. They hypothesized that these breeds were traditionally used for historical reasons rather than empirical data. There has previously been no empirical data gathered to prove that one breed or another was superior in odor detection tests. The researchers also hypothesized that pugs would perform poorly in these tests due to their brachycephalic head shape.

The procedure involved the dogs distinguishing between a scented bait that was placed in one of two buckets of pine shavings. They used 10 German Shepherds and 11 Pugs. The dogs were first trained to dig in the bucket  of pine shavings, then they were trained to choose which bucket had the scented bait in it. They were allowed one session per day for four sessions.

The pugs outperformed the German Shepherds in both target acquisition and detecting the target at lower odor concentrations. However, they didn't perform differently than German Shepherds when the discrimination was visually based.

Nathaniel J. Hall, Kelsey Glenn, David W. Smith, 2015. Performance of Pugs, German Shepherds, and Greyhounds (Canis lupus familiaris) on an Odor-Discrimination Task. Journal of Comparative Psychology 129.3: 237-246.