Canine olfaction: Scent, sign, and situation

Simon Gadbois*, Catherine Reeve

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

26 Citations (Scopus)


Canine olfaction is a rich field of study for the behavioural sciences and neurosciences, and it is rich in interdisciplinary connections. This chapter will explore the neurocognitive and neuroconative bases of olfaction (the neurophysiological foundations of cognition and motivation), and discuss the behavioural, psychological, and semiotic dimensions of scent processing. It will cover the basic psychophysics of olfaction and the methodologies allowing us to explore this sensory modality, as well as the complex cognitive and motivational dimensions of scent. This chapter will open with an overview of the different disciplines involved in the study of canine olfaction. Some basic anatomy and neuroscience will be reviewed, mostly with direct reference to behaviour and associated psychological processes (e.g., cognitive, motivational, and affective systems). For the behavioural aspect of olfaction, a discussion of the contrasting, yet complementary methods of ethology and experimental psychology will be examined. The importance of both field and laboratory research will be highlighted. Olfaction in context will also be discussed in reference to zoosemiotics and in order to understand the canine olfactory psychoethology in its most meaningful and functional dimension: processing signs (including symptoms as with dogs trained for biomedical applications such as symptom detection). We will conclude with a short commentary on the human-canine sensory symbiosis with sniffer dogs.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDomestic Dog Cognition and Behavior
Subtitle of host publicationThe Scientific Study of Canis familiaris
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9783642539947
ISBN (Print)3642539939, 9783642539930
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Psychology(all)

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  • Cite this

    Gadbois, S., & Reeve, C. (2014). Canine olfaction: Scent, sign, and situation. In Domestic Dog Cognition and Behavior: The Scientific Study of Canis familiaris (pp. 3-29). Springer.