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Book Review
by Milo Pearsall & Hugo Verbruggen

Review by: Kate Connick, Feb. 2006

I'm no expert in scentwork, so I approach a book like Milo Pearsall and Hugo Verbruggen's Scent from the perspective of a novice. This is a general guide to basic theory and training techniques for various facets of scentwork. Although it is probably dated and makes for dry reading, it presents a good introduction to the topic.

Anyone who picks up this book is probably willing to accept the premise that each person has a unique scent that can be identified and located by a trained dog. Nonetheless, the authors dedicate the initial 44 pages to exploring the concept and attempting to validate it scientifically.

Although the point is well taken that scent can include easily dispersed, gaseous components, as well as more durable, particulate content including skin flakes, oils and perspiration, the authors' exploration of the science behind scent may feel tedious to the more casual reader.

That being said, the nuts and bolts of training seem well presented. The concepts and goals are clear, progressions incremental and achievable, and methods palatable. A reader would be able to understand and teach at least rudimentary nosework to his dog by following the authors' training plan.

The authors explore variations in scentwork including picking up scent from various sources, following a ground track to find objects/people, area-searching for objects/people/tracks, and serving as a "trail companion" (of the "Lassie, go get help" variety). Training to a standard that would pass an AKC tracking test or meet search and rescue competence obviously requires the assistance and expertise of other people, but even a regular pet owner could harvest ideas for at-home scent games through this text.

The initial foundation is laid in puppy exercises where the pup performs recalls that evolve into finding his hidden handler. Subsequent training relies on the dog's motivation to retrieve and/or earn praise. Food is verboten, and only limited corrections in the form of "snubbing" (stopping) the long line to get the dog back on task are allowed. Heavy emphasis is placed on the importance of reading one's dog and laying a good basic foundation.

I suspect that methods (particularly within the specialized field of search and rescue) have evolved since this book's publication many years ago. Nevertheless, one can gain a general grasp of concepts and techniques from this book. It is a good introduction to scentwork and its potential applications.

Scent, by Milo Pearsall & Hugo Verbruggen .
Published by Alpine Publications, 1982. ISBN: 0931866111

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