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Most dog owners never want to leave their dogs, especially if they hate being away from us more than usual. It is often recommended to put your scent on something when you have to be away from your dog, but do you know why or how to do this?
Putting your scent on a piece of clothing, blanket, or even a plush toy is a great way to soothe separation anxiety, introduce yourself to a new dog, or help lead a lost dog home. You can add scent by sleeping with it, wearing it, or rubbing your body odor on it.
Let’s look into the best ways to add your scent to an item, what kinds of items work best for adding scent, and why you should consider doing it for your dog.
How to Add Your Scent to Something
The most important part of sending your pet with a t-shirt, blanket, or toy to add your scent! Dogs love our scent of us, even the parts that we humans don’t necessarily love. There are a few very easy ways to get your scent on something for your dog.
Many dog owners choose to use clothing to scent for their dogs because of how easy it is to add scent to. Simply wearing a t-shirt or sweatshirt for a day or two will add your scent to it. The longer you wear it, the better.
If you’re like me, you probably have a robe or jacket to use around the house. Choose one to use for your dog’s comfort item and wear it for a couple of weeks to give it lots of your smell. You can also use a small blanket to wear around the house as well, especially if your dog has a favorite.
Whatever you choose to wear for your dog, you should plan ahead so you can get at least 2-3 days. If possible, wear it for a week or two, especially for something like a blanket or jacket that’s not right against your skin.
Sleep With It
The easiest way to add your scent is just to sleep with what you’d like to put your scent on. This is especially effective for people that sweat a lot at night, body odor contains our most powerful scent. Let’s look at how long you should sleep with something to adequately add your scent.
Blankets are the easiest thing to add scent to in your sleep, as most of us already sleep with a blanket regularly. And many dogs are already interested in soaking in the scents of our bed.
Blankets made of synthetic fibers hold smell more intensely than natural fibers, but any blanket will hold your scent.
When putting your scent on a blanket, sleep with it for at least a week, if not more to make sure your scent is nice and strong for your dog. The best part about using a blanket is that in a pinch, you can use whatever blanket you have been sleeping with recently to soothe your pup in your absence!
Blankets are great for scent, but clothing is closer to our bodies, therefore has more of a chance to pick up your scent throughout the night. You can use pants, a t-shirt, or even underwear to add your scent.
T-shirts are the most common as armpit sweat is highly potent in smell, and our dogs love it. Underwear is also incredibly potent, but can be a little awkward to leave with your pet sitter! Pants are also an option, but be sure to avoid fabrics like denim that don’t absorb smell quite as much.
To ensure there is plenty of scents transferred, sleep in the t-shirt or pants for about a week before leaving your pup. If you opt to use underwear, they should only be worn for a day or two, but because of the location on your body, the odor is absorbed much more quickly.
Whichever piece of clothing you choose to add scent to, your dog will surely be appreciative that you spent a few nights thinking of them. Just make sure that smelling doesn’t turn to nibbling eventually eating as eating clothing can be extremely dangerous for dogs.
Sleeping with a toy is much less effective than sleeping in a t-shirt or with a blanket, but will still add some scent to it. Instead of trying to sleep directly on the toy, try setting it next to your pillow during the night so it absorbs your scent that way.
It’s hard to say how long to sleep with a toy. You certainly want to make sure that you are using a soft, plush toy that will absorb your scent. For best results, sleeping with it for at least a week should transfer enough scent to soothe your dog.
Don’t Sweat It (Or Do!)
This one is going to sound gross to us, but remember that this is for your dog! To our canine friends, the smell of our sweat and body odor reminds them strongly of us. This makes it smell amazing to them.
Dogs have a special organ between their mouth and nose called the Jacobson’s organ, which doesn’t detect smells, but rather pheromones. Because our sweat contains so many pheromones, dogs LOVE it! Let’s look at the best items to add your sweat to for your pup.
The best and easiest thing to add your body odor to is workout clothes! Of course, when we exercise we sweat and our clothes often absorb this sweat. Interestingly, our actual sweat does not smell! What you are smelling is the bacteria on your skin interacting with the sweat.
Moreso, most workout clothes are made of polyester or cotton. Both fabrics absorb sweat well, but polyester seems to give off a more intense smell because of the microbes it carries, according to this study. Cotton works, but doesn’t give off the same intensity.
Whichever outfit you choose to leave with your pup, they will be grateful that you worked up a sweat in it with your morning workout!
Plush toys can be difficult to get a scent on. We can’t wear them and sleeping with them is hit or miss, depending on how much you move while you sleep. but a surefire way to ensure a toy smells like you would be to rub it in your sweat!
How Long Does Your Scent Stay on Something for Your Dog?
There’s been little research on how long dogs can smell our scent on items, partially because it would be difficult to tell when they are no longer smelling it. However, we can look at other examples of dogs picking up human scents to answer the question.
Search and Rescue
Dogs have long been used to help find lost people, pets, or even items. In search in rescue, time is extremely imperative. Experienced dogs can follow trails that are around 2 days old, but some breeds, like Bloodhounds, can follow trails that are weeks old!
It’s important to remember that these dogs are trained for this and experienced in searching for scents. What’s remarkable, is they are often following trails that were made just by the person walking through the area! If dogs’ noses are powerful enough to detect an outside trail for days, imagine how strongly your clothes smell to them!
Dogs Are Attune to Our Smell
The best part about being a dog owner is how excited they get when they see you, especially after some time apart. Most of us would say that they recognizer us on sight, but it’s more like on smell! Dogs’ knowledge and navigation of the world primarily comes from their nose,
Studies have shown that our dog recognizes our scent and enjoys it more than the scent of unfamiliar humans or familiar pets. The reward center in their brain lights up more when they smell our smell, which would make it very rewarding anytime they smell us.
The motivation to smell our scent is high, so our dogs will sniff as much as they can if they are looking for our scent.
Our Best Guess
Taking into account that scent dogs can track weak and often eroded outdoor trails for weeks, as well as how much they love our scent, we can assume that a scent on our clothes will last at least a few weeks. Even so, we advise that you plan to add your scent to an item for your dog right before you plan on giving it to them. This ensures that the scent is strong for your dog, and it should last long enough for most trips.
What To Put Scent On
Many different belongings work well to put your scent on for your dog. Synthetic fibers have been proven to retain scent more than natural fibers, especially polyester, nylon, and cotton blends. Let’s look into the advantages and disadvantages of the most common items to put your scent on.
There’s nothing better than snuggling up on the couch with a blanket and your dog. Dogs love these positive experiences and giving them a blanket you use often can help soothe your dog in your absence. The best part of using a blanket is how easy it is to get your scent on, especially if it ones that you use often.
Avoid giving them a blanket that is “theirs,” such as their crate blanket. While this is familiar, it won’t smell like you and won’t invoke the same pleasant chemicals in the brain. A cozy blanket that you love is perfect for your pet to snuggle with and dream of you.
Clothing is the most commonly used belonging to put a scent on, and it’s mostly because of how easy it is to put your scent on. Most modern clothing is also made of synthetic fibers that retain scent very well over time. Workout clothes are especially great because they are often made with polyester or nylon, both of which are synthetic. Giving your dog something scented with you could be as easy as skipping the hamper, and giving it to them instead!
If your dog is a toy lover, you could use that love to your advantage! A plush toy is made of soft fabric that will hold your scent well, and it’s easy for your dog to carry around with them when they need a familiar scent. The only downside of toys is that they are more difficult to get your scent on, but for some dogs, the comfort of the toy outweighs the lighter scent.
Pairing the excitement of a new toy with your familiar scent is a perfect way to make your dog feel right at home wherever they, or you, are.
Why Put Your Scent On Something for Your Dog?
Trainers, veterinarians, behaviorists, and almost every pet professional will likely recommend that you add your scent to something for your dog when you have to be away from them. This may seem strange when looked at from a human perspective, but for dogs, it makes total sense when you examine their sense of smell and their brains.
The Power of the Nose
Most of us know that a dog’s nose is incredibly powerful, up to 100,000 times stronger than ours, but did you know that they use their nose for much more than merely smelling? Dogs rely on their nose to experience the world, similarly to how humans often rely on vision.
James Walker, a scientist at Florida State University, said that if the power of a dog’s nose was converted to our eyesight, they could see over 3,000 miles or the distance between San Francisco and New York City!
So clearly, a dog’s nose is incredibly powerful. But what about smelling your scent is helpful for your dog?
Rewards the Brain
Most noses don’t just smell, they sniff. The difference is sniffing is a way for them to actively survey their surroundings while smelling is a passive side effect of breathing. Because dogs use their nose as their primary way of learning about their environment, sniffing something pleasant can be incredibly rewarding.
In a dog’s brain, we are remembered by our smell more than our looks. Dogs also remember other dogs and pets by their smells, but it seems that their chosen humans are a stronger pull. in a study done on dogs reuniting with their humans, scientists found that the rewards system in a dog’s brain lights up much more when a familiar human is presented versus a familiar dog or unfamiliar human.
It seems that enjoying our scents are quite literally ingrained into our dogs’ brains. Having something that smells like you can help calm an anxious dog when you’re not able to be there to do it, like in the following situations.
To Help With Separation Anxiety
In a study done by Certapet in 2021, up to 76% of American dogs suffer from separation anxiety! This has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, as owners spent more time at home during this time only to return to work later. Separation anxiety can result in destructive behaviors, nuisance barking, and using the bathroom in the house are the most common behaviors associated with separation anxiety.
Fortunately, there are ways to address this. Exercise and crate training ensures that your dog is getting its needs fulfilled, but adding an item that smells like you as a comfort in its crate could help reduce the stress of your dog. In the aforementioned survey, 47% of humans claimed separation anxiety away from their dogs! Knowing that you did something to help keep them happy can help calm you both.
To Keep Them Calm During Vacations
Most of us love taking vacations, but hate having to leave our dogs behind! While there are plenty of trips you can take with your furry friends, sometimes you have to leave them behind with a boarding facility or pet sitter. A scented belonging could help your dog keep you close during this time apart, and can even help them transition back into normal life after your vacation.
To Introduce a New Dog to Your Scent
When a dog is introduced to a new home, it can be stressful for them. This is especially true for young puppies. Leaving the warmth and company of their mother and littermates is hard on them, but some have found that sending a scented piece of clothing to their breeder before picking the puppy up can help with the transition.
With this, the breeder can make positive associations with your scent, like giving them cuddles or treats anytime they smell it. In the video below, the breeder rewards the pup anytime he sniffs the towel with the new owner’s scent. When the pup meets the new owners, his brain will automatically be happy as it recalls all the treats associated with the smell!
This also helps with shelter or rescue dogs but can be more difficult to orchestrate with a busy shelter. Something as simple as a t-shirt with your smell can help create a stronger bond with your new dog!
To Help Lead a Lost Dog Home
Even the most careful dog owners and most well-behaved dogs can find themselves in the unfortunate situation of having or being a lost dog. When this happens, it’s important not to panic, but instead to do everything you can to lead them back home. By placing one of your belongings with your smell on it outside your home, your dog’s powerful nose may pick up the scent and follow it home!
Adding a scent to a piece of clothing, blanket, or toy is a perfect way to help your dog through periods that you have to be away from them. in your absence, your smell can help soothe your dog and keep them calm, which is all any great dog owner ever asks for!