I started to work with scent wheels in 1996 and experienced the benefits with hundreds of dogs. Working with a scent wheel is an excellent way to train detection dogs, as it can help to refine the dog’s odor-detection skills and lead to better results in the field. Scent wheels provide a way to isolate various odors and allow the handler to work with the dog in a controlled environment. This can make the training process more efficient and effective.
Several odors in the wheel
The scent wheel consists of several odors that can be used to train a dog to detect a specific odor. A trainer can also use the wheel to introduce the dog to a new odor, the imprinting phase. Spinning the wheel moves the odors around, allowing the dog to hunt and focus on the target odor. But with all tools we use to train dogs, you must understand how to use a scent wheel to use this technique’s full potential.
As I started with simple ‘garbage can science’ cheap homemade scent wheels, I slowly progressed to using more professional wheels. That doesn’t mean that the ‘homemade’ wheels are not good. They help train your detection dog, but I needed different kinds of wheels for the advanced detection work. During these years of experimenting and training many detection dogs, I finally decided to design and build my ACT! scent wheels.
Foldable scent wheel
I wanted to make sure the scent wheel would be transportable for several reasons. of the wheels on the market are bulky and not easy to set up. They need a lot of space, and tools are required to assemble them. Then there are a lot of different materials used, and we all know that stainless steel is the best in the detection world. Because it is easy to clean and ruggedize but also bulky, heavy, and costly. With this in mind, I was able to design and build a unique scent wheel specially designed for the demanding military, police, and custom dogs. It’s easy to fold in 2 minutes. Arms can be set in different lengths.
The whole wheel can be set at different heights. Of course, it’s made of high-quality stainless steel. Weight under 20 kilos, folded only 80 cm high and 35 cm wide, and easily transported in the smallest car’s trunk. And the best, it will come with horizontal and vertical target positions.
Unique vertical target positions
The vertical target positions of this scent wheel are unique in the world. They were designed by carefully observing hundreds of detection dogs using different strategies.
Adding these vertical positions created clear criteria for the trainers when to reinforce the dog. And clear criteria for the dog what to do to be successful. Adding glass targets prevented contamination of the wheel during training, and they created a vortex when the dog is sampling the different target positions.
By blowing air out and sniffing in, the dog can find even the lowest traces of odor, making this wheel an essential tool for research. The ACT! Scent wheels will come with 8 or 12 arms, your ideal training tool!
Use a scent wheel at its full potential.
Using a scent wheel at its full potential means you can use this too;
- test dogs for detection
- imprint odors
- motivate dogs
- make dogs more confident
- teach your dog to make a fast decision
- teach your dog to coop with distractions
- collect data about the performances of your dog
- be able to work fast, do many trials, and work with large sets of distraction odors
- do threshold research; how low can your dog detect target odors
- and much more
Young dogs will chase the target odor with a lot of fun. By loading a scent wheel with not one but four ‘hot’ targets, you will set up the dog for success. Turning the wheel slowly or faster motivates dogs to follow the air plume. And dogs will learn quickly to ‘stop’ the spinning scent wheel by pushing their nose into the hot target, which brings the wheel to a stop. Here dogs learn fast decision-making because the target is gone if they don’t stop it.
The ideal tool to work double-blind
When we compare it to a line-up, a scent wheel is much easier to work with. The most significant advantage is that there is no start and no end. The scent wheel is round, while the line-up has a clear start and end that sometimes will give some mental pressure on the dog when it hasn’t found a target and see the end position closer and closer. Dogs hesitate and try to alert on the last position to get a reinforcer. Another significant benefit is that working double-blind with a scent wheel is much easier. Don’t mark the arms or targets, load the wheel with distractions and target odor(s), spin the wheel and send the dog. As a trainer, you have no clue where the target odor will be, and there are no clever Hans issues or other bias problems. Suppose we compare this with a line-up; then, it is challenging to work double-blind if you load the line-up yourself. Also, the procedure is much simpler. While the line-up costs time and distance to load, unloading and cleaning the scent wheel will make all this much more manageable. Install yourself in one position, load or unload the wheel with the glass targets and clean them later.
The ACT! Smart Wheel with electronic sensors
Besides the stainless steel foldable scent wheel, ACT! also has launched a unique electronic scent wheel. This is equipped with intelligent sensors that will help you to train your dog with the highest precision. These sensors monitor your dog and will alert you if your dog reacts to a distraction or a hot target. These sensors also will monitor the sampling time, the number of times the dog will hit on a specific target, and everything is logged. The special-built ACT! App on your iPhone or Ipad will directly show your dog’s performance by Bluetooth connection. And all the data is easy to transfer as a CVS file to your data program like Excel, Numbers, or whatever you use.
Scent wheels are an important step in the development of detection dogs. And they play a significant role in research. If you want to know more about using scent wheels, check out my online course—buying an ACT! Scent wheel is giving you free access to this course. Or visit my scent wheel workshop, where you can work with your dog on the different ACT! Scent wheels and learn more.
Any questions or comments?
If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to send me an e-mail.