FREE SCENT WORK TRAINING TIP
Common Question: Lingering v. Residual Odor
A common question handlers ask is what is the difference between lingering odor and residual odor. Are the terms interchangeable? Does any of this really matter? Shouldn't the dog just work through it?
The easiest way to wrap your head around the concept of lingering odor and residual odor is to think about bacon. When you are cooking bacon, the room will fill with the lovely aroma of bacon. Yummy! Even after you are done cooking the bacon, have eaten your fill and put the rest back in the fridge, there may be a lingering aroma of bacon. This is lingering odor. Chasing down this aroma is not going to get you anywhere. Overtime it will dissipate.
Now, as you were cooking, your bacon was likely spitting bacon grease all over your kitchen . Onto the backsplash. Onto the cooktop. Onto the counters. Onto the floor. This bacon grease is residual odor...it is bacon! Even after you have eaten the cooked bacon and put the rest back into the fridge, if you then let your dog into the room, they would happily lick up all this bacon grease. Because it is bacon, it is source.
What does all this have to do with Scent Work? Well, it means that we have to be super careful NOT to have RESIDUAL ODOR in our search areas. If a dog were to hit on residual odor, they would be 100% correct...but if we do not reward them or worst still, tell them they are WRONG, well, then we are diminishing the value in odor. That is bad.
How can we go about avoiding all of this? Careful handling of our odor, odor vessels and adhesives. We cover this in more detail in our Prepping and Storing Odor Webinar, but essentially, store your adhesives (putty, GlueDots, etc.) AWAY from your odor kit and odor, ensure you do NOT have target odor oil on the outside of your odor vessel and store all odor-related items together and AWAY from any "clean" items.
"But shouldn't a dog work through lingering odor?"
They can. We oftentimes see this when a hide is moved from one location to another, such as the hide was on a chair leg in one run and placed onto a wall the next. IF proper odor handling techniques were followed, there may be LINGERING ODOR near the chair leg, aka the aroma of the bacon. The dog can work through this to eventually find source or where the hide is now.
Ideally, once your training session is finished, you will wipe down the areas where you had an odor vessel with either white vinegar or Zero Odor, to ensure there is no chance of any residual odor.
An important caveat, however, are removeable objects. If you place a hide within an removeable object such as a container of any sort or a fake rock or something else that can be removed from the search area, that object must now and forever be deemed an odor object. It must NOT be used in subsequent searches as a "clean" object and should thus be stored with other odor objects when not in use.
The same applies for buried hides that are featured in AKC Scent Work, whether you are using sand or water. The containers that have a hide within them must always and forever be deemed "hot" odor containers afterwards. They should be stored away from any "clean" containers and must NOT be used in a subsequent search as a "clean" container. The likelihood the odor oil will seep out of the odor vessel and into the sand or water, leaving behind RESIDUAL ODOR, and being soaked up by the plastic container itself, it simply too high. Meaning, the dogs would be correctly hitting on these containers even though a new odor vessel has not been placed within them. Handlers will become frustrated, telling the dog they are incorrect...when in actuality, the dog is 100% right! Doing this repeatedly will diminish the dog's understanding that odor is indeed valuable, worth hunting for and can eat away at their desire to even play the game.
Understanding what lingering odor and residual odor are is crucially important for anyone involved in Scent Work. Thank goodness for bacon for helping to make these concepts so much clearer!