Generalizing to target odor variations while retaining specificity against non-targets is crucial to the success of detector dogs under working conditions. As such, the importance of generalization should be considered in the formulation of effective training strategies. Research investigating olfactory generalization from pure singular compounds to more complex odor mixtures helps to elucidate animals’ olfactory generalization tendencies and inform ways to alter the generalization gradient by broadening or narrowing the range of stimuli to which dogs will respond. Olfactory generalization depends upon both intrinsic factors of the odors, such as concentration, as well as behavioral and cognitive factors related to training and previous experience. Based on the current research, some training factors may influence generalization. For example, using multiple target exemplars appears to be the most effective way to promote elemental processing and broaden the generalization gradient, whereas increasing the number of training instances with fewer exemplars can narrow the gradient, thereby increasing discrimination. Overall, this research area requires further attention and study to increase our understanding of olfactory generalization in dogs, particularly detector dogs, to improve training and detection outcomes.
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