Use of a habituation–dishabituation test to determine canine olfactory sensitivity

Ariella Y. Moser, Wendy Y. Brown, Lewis Bizo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The habituation–dishabituation (H–D) paradigm is an established measure of sensory perception in animals. However, it has rarely been applied to canine olfaction. It proposes that animals will lose interest in, or habituate to, a stimulus after successive exposures but will regain interest in, or dishabituate to, a novel stimulus if they can perceive it. This study assessed an H–D test's practicability to determine dogs' olfactory detection thresholds (ODTs) for a neutral odorant. A random selection of mixed-breed pet dogs (n = 26) participated in two H–D tests in a repeated-measures crossover design. They were first habituated to a carrier odor and then presented with either ascending concentrations of n-amyl acetate in the known ODT range (experimental condition) or repeated carrier odor presentations (control condition). No single odor concentration elicited dishabituation in the majority of the dogs. However, individual dogs dishabituated at differing experimental concentrations significantly more often than in the control condition (p =.012). These findings provide some tentative support for using this method in studying canine olfaction. However, further assessment and refinement are needed before it can be a viable alternative to traditional ODT measurement.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


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