Dear Old Trainer: I saw the police dogs on TV and there is something I don't get. How do police dogs find a bomb when there are so many people and all those other smells around from those people? We live in a town so little we don't have no dog trainers so my mother said to ask you. How do dogs do it? Could my dog Mazy do it? Sometimes we go to Denver but I don't know how to find a dog trainer there. I am 11.
Erika Limon, Colo.
Answer: That's an excellent question, Erika. At the Boston Marathon they have 25,000 runners more than all the people in your town 500,000 spectators, and several thousand race officials and security police.
Plus, there are restaurants with the smell of every kind of food there is, sandwiches and treats in the backpacks of the runners, other dogs, cars, rats, mice, cats, birds, trash, trees, grass too many other smells to list.
So how does a police dog manage to keep from being distracted?
Dogs have a sense of smell so acute humans cannot measure it. Even with all our computers, sensors and scientific instruments, we cannot come close to inventing a device that equals a dog's sense of smell.
Dogs recognize all those smells listed above, evaluate each to see if it interests them, yet never become distracted from the job of finding the one they are looking for. They catalogue each smell remember, every human there has a different scent and never forget it as long as they live.
Dogs learn as much using their noses as you do using your eyes. And the way they keep from being distracted is the same way you keep from being distracted if you are looking for one color among many colors.
On your next trip to Denver, if your Mom tells you to look at every car you see until you find a purple one, you won't be distracted by all the other colors. Your eyes will tell you this one is red and that one is white and this one is black, but you won't forget you are looking for a purple one.
You will notice the other colors and probably even remember approximately how many of each color you saw.
You might see hundreds of cars before you spot the one you are looking for, but no matter how many you see it will be easy to remember you are looking for a purple one.
Even if you take a nap, you will remember you are looking for a purple one when you wake up. And you will keep looking until you see one.
That's how dogs do it
Mazy can do the same thing and she does it every day. That's how she protects you. She knows if someone who visits you is a friend because she remembers the scent if they have been there before. She knows when any animal comes close.
Keep an eye on Mazy and you will see she uses her nose every minute of the day.
Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to theoldtrainer711@ yahoo.com.