Early Scent Introduction

DSC_7328I got an interesting question from a prospective puppy buyer. Do I use Early Scent Introduction (ESI) protocol with my litters? I never have but heard lots about it and am truly excited to experiment with it.

ESI was developed by Gayle Watkins, a long time breeder of Golden Retrievers and co-founder of Avidog, a breeder education forum. The long term results of ESI were studied in a 7-year breeding test. Success of puppies trained in ESI compared to a control group was remarkable! In their adult life they achieved scenting titles much earlier ( years earlier!), accumulated more titles overall and their abilities were more complex. ESI has since been used widely by breeder enthusiasts involved in scenting disciplines and the protocol has been endorsed by the American Kennel Club.

ESI is used in conjunction with Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS), a protocol I described in detail in my earlier post from last year. I have been using ENS for years, ever since my very first litter. However, this is my first litter trained with Early Scent Introduction concurrently with Early Neurological Stimulation.

A puppy is introduced to a stimulus of a strong smell for about 5 seconds. The puppy is unrestrained and allowed to move freely. Its reaction is recorded as neutral, positive or negative.

The photos above show a clear positive response to a fresh basil leaf. This was the first time (day 4 of the exercise) when I recorded a response in all puppies of this litter and it was unmistakable. Watson reacted to the scent here by moving closer and sniffing it.

Meanwhile, Hudson clearly showed a negative reaction to the basil leaf.

DSC_7421 (2)DSC_7422 (2)DSC_7423 (2)

What was thrilling that day was that the reactions were apparent. The first 2 days of the ESI the puppies showed no response at all, marked as neutral response in the records. On day 3 Holmes responded positive to a flowering cherry branch, while his siblings remained neutral.

So far the puppies have been introduced to the following scents:

Day 1 (day 5 of life) pine needles           all neutral

Day 2 (day 6 of life) orange peel            all neutral

Day 3 (day 7 of life) cherry blossoms    Homes positive, Watson and Hudson neutral

Day 4 (day 8 of life) fresh basil leaf       Holmes and Watson positive, Hudson negative

Day 5 (day 9 of life) garlic                          all negative

Day 6 (day 10 of life) rich dirt                   all positive (very positive!) – TERRIERS!!!

Day 7 (day 11 of life) rat bedding              all positive (very positive, including the dam!) –                                                                                      TERRIERS, TERRIERS, TERRIERS!!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All three puppies were  very interested in rat bedding (photos above). You see my hand in one photo as I was spotting Watson not to fall off the blanket stretchered across on my lap when racing to the rat bedding. Can you tell they are terriers?

So is ESI intended for dogs that are going to have careers in tracking or hunting? No, this is for any puppy! The idea behind these exercises is to stimulate the areas of the brain primed for development spurt.

Canines perceive the world predominantly by scent and scent memory. Our human perception of the world around us is predominantly visual. Very much the way we introduce mobiles in our babies’ cribs to stimulate their development, strong scents offered to puppies in neonatal period stimulate their brains and form neural connections for scent memories.

But hey, priming these pups for future success in tracking, barn hunt and earthdog will be a lovely bonus.

This entry was posted in Early Scent Introduction, Puppy rearing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Early Scent Introduction

  1. Today you reminded me of an early experience I had in my teaching career….We had gerbils in the classroom. We did these kinds of experiments with food preferences…activity levels …etc etc. the children came up with experiments, conducted them, and kept data on their results…We then published a classroom book of their findings which I copied (ditto machine of the day) up and gave to the children. We called it What you Always wanted to Know about Gerbils But Were Afraid to Ask. Great memory….I must have the book somewhere I will have to share with you….:)


  2. JoAnn says:

    We’re getting our puppy when he’s 8 weeks old. Can I still do the scenting with him?


  3. I breed a very selective line of German Shepherds for becoming Medical Alert Dogs for my family and others. I have used Scent Imprinting with all my litters, starting at day 2 of life. I scent imprint specifically for low glucose levels. The results are absolutely amazing! Puppies alert on children experiencing low blood glucose events at 5 weeks old.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s