There is a consensus that humans, rodents, and primates process odor mixtures configurally: that is, the mixture is perceived as a unique whole and not as a collection of its different components. However, it is commonly believed by dog trainers that dogs can analyze mixtures and break them down into their individual components: that is, that they process odor mixtures analytically. There is, however, little experimental evidence to support this belief. This experiment was designed to determine whether dogs trained on mixtures of three or five different odors would detect the individual odors when each component was tested. Our results show that the dogs were able to respond to each of the components on their first trial with each separate element of the mixture (p < 0.001). This finding presents the first experimental proof that dogs trained to detect a mixture will later detect its individual components. These results may be attributed to previous extensive general training of the tested dogs to detect odors, and to their being reared and maintained in an enriched olfactory environment.
- Detection dogs