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Early Scent Introduction (ESI) is a training program for puppies designed to enhance their ability to identify, and react to, specific scents. Each day, we will introduce a strong scent to the puppy for brief intervals, and record the puppy’s reaction.

The reaction is considered to be positive when the puppy shows interest in the scent, moving toward it. A negative reaction is recorded when the puppy tries to get away from the scent. And finally, when a puppy is neither interested nor disinterested in the scent, this is a neutral reaction.

Dr. Gayle Watkins is a breeder of sporting Golden Retrievers, she began testing dogs to determine the effectiveness of ESI. This involved selecting certain puppies from her litters to receive ESI training, and others that would not receive ESI. The results were nothing short of impressive. The dogs that participated in ESI had more scenting titles than those that did not participate, and they were achieving titles at ages of up to five years younger than the pups that had not participated.

These results mean the potential for even better companion, service, and therapy dogs. 

Scent abilities are often very important. As an example, when a dog is a companion to a child with autism, his main function is likely to be a guardian of sorts, since children with autism can have a tendency to wander or run off. If the dog is able to easily follow the child’s scent and locate him or her, that could actually be a life-saving asset. Another situation in which scent abilities can matter a great deal might be alerting an elderly person to a gas leak, or to something burning on the stove – again, there is the potential for saving a life. Service dogs can also use scent to identify the early stages of diabetic reaction, or the onset of a seizure. All these skills enhanced by ESI. Keeping in mind, not all dogs are going to be service or therapy animals.

We will now be performing the Early Scent Introduction on our Cocker Spaniel puppies because we understand how important a dog’s sense of smell is to him/her and his/her brain function. Our dogs’ noses are 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive to smells than our human noses, depending on the dog and dog breed.

The author of Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz, claims that dogs examine and understand the world through their noses like we see and make sense of the world with our eyes. The area in the brain that processes the data picked up by the nose is 40 times larger in dogs than humans. A dog’s ability to smell is a function of their intellect.

The Procedure for Early Scent Introduction

1. Introduce a new scent daily to each puppy beginning on Day 3 and ending on Day 16 alongside Early Neurological Stimulation that we also do here. 
2. Once a day, pick up each pup individually and hold it gently but firmly in one hand, so that there is no chance of it falling.
3. With the other hand, hold the scent item about ½ inch from the pup’s nose. If the pup wants to move towards the item, allow it to do so. If the pup tries to move away from the scent item, allow this as well. Do not move the scent item toward a pup that is trying to avoid it.
4. Hold the scent item in place for 5 seconds. If the pup shows no reaction or an adverse response, end after 5 seconds. If the pup chooses to engage with the scent item, allow it to do so for up to 30 seconds.
5. Return the pup to the box and repeat this procedure with the next puppy until you have done the entire litter.

We select pungent scent items based on the work that our dogs do eg: hunting, tracking as well as items they may interact with during their daily life. We may choose additional items based on the pup’s future activities but avoid meats, since we are trying to stimulate scent not taste. 

x Natural items (grass, tree bark, leaves, moss, dirt, leaves, evergreen needles and cones) x Fruits, herbs and spices (lemon, apples, bananas, oranges, rosemary, mint, cloves) x Training items (gamebirds, such as pheasants, grouse, ducks, pigeons; tennis balls, leather, cloth, wooden and plastic items, essential oils, manufactured training scents) x Miscellaneous (tolerant pets such as cats, rabbits, guinea pigs)

We are currently also working on building a database that will eventually be able to give each individual pup a printed report relevant to that pup. It will include weights from birth onwards, reactions to ESI, worming, vaccinations and other imperative information. We hope to have this data included in your puppy pack that will be handed to you at the 8 week pick up. 

Early Scent Induction (ESI): About
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