The dogs with the most sense of smell in Spain will leave their mark in a competition in Vitoria

Vitoria -rather the neighboring town of Etxabarri Ibiña- will host on May 14 and 15, next weekend, the first scoring event of the 2022 championship of the National League of Detector Dogs after the cancellation of the last two editions as a consequence of COVID-19. The Kultura Kanina association from Vitoria, a member of the league, has been in charge of organizing the event, which will take place at the Bigkarting facilities in the Gorbeia shopping center, an environment in which the well-being and safety of animals is promised.

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What is a detector dog? Two ideas: police dogs searching vehicles, suitcases or flats in search of drugs, explosives or other illegal substances are common, and also hunting dogs searching for partridges or wild boars together with their master. Canine sense of smell is 2,000 times more efficient than that of humans. This olfactory competition is friendly in nature and aims to promote the values ​​of balance, communication, fun and bond between dog and owner.

Different pairs formed by the dogs and their handlers "look for three drops of different essential oils in three different scenarios," said Marcos Cebrián, member and judge of the National League of Detector Dogs. Each successful quest is scored differently depending on the setting and substance. In the first place, the test is carried out in the 'package' setting, in which the substances have to be located in objects of different volumes and shapes, avoiding falling into traps that are intended to confuse the dog's sense of smell. After that, they must identify the hiding places of the substances hidden in different vehicles and in the last test scenes of four rooms are prepared and, discriminating the distracting substances, they must carry out the search, exhibiting their system in the way that each binomial considers.

The competition is governed by its own regulations, which indicate, in addition to how the test should be carried out, which are the cases in which a combination incurs a penalty or even a disqualification. They are a reason for a penalty —and the participants in the Vitoria test must avoid— touching a package, making false markings or relieving themselves during the search; the latter, together with false markings, is the one that carries the greatest number of penalty points, 15. There are also different actions that can lead to the disqualification of a dog and its handler: using prizes such as toys or food to make better the test, use a punishment collar or fail to prevent the dog from barking continuously.

In 2013, after realizing the possibilities that it could offer, a group of people who are fond of canine detection decided to promote a project. After the drafting of a first regulation and shaping some statutes, the Spanish Federation of Detector Dogs was created and in 2014 its first championship was held. Over the years, both the federation and other associations have gained more interest in these practices, which is why the participation and level of combinations and clubs has been increasing along with the regularity of the competitions. There are currently thirteen clubs under the umbrella of the federation throughout Spain; two of them, Eltocanin and Haindikan from Gipuzkoa, are Basque.

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