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They Have the Scent!

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Dogs have been brought out to track some quarry and have been sniffing about. One starts to bay, and the others join it, and they all chase off.

Because They Have the Scent. And someone will say so. In these words, or others. It's sometimes "They've picked up the scent." or "They've picked up the trail." The second may also be used when the Scarily Competent Tracker is clearly following. Typically, this act can be audibly symbolized by a sound of the dog or dogs "baying", a sort of bark/howl which is meant to call other members of the pack to attention and signal that a quarry has been sighted.

If the dogs are hunting people, they are loud enough to be heard by the pursued, who may be the ones who say this. It indicates that The Chase is about to begin in earnest, and that evasion will not be feasible or will require throwing the dogs off. Generally a grim point. And the pursuee will almost always go to water or roll in something disgusting to throw the animals off the scent. (This always works on television. Contrary to what most people expect, it does not work in real life.)

Hunters of either animals or men may also use the Stock Phrase.

This is also used in superhero comics wherein you have a hero with animal powers, or with aliens/fantasy races with strong senses of smell. May be visually represented with Fluorescent Footprints or a glowing "cloud" of scent.


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    Comic Books 
  • In Jon Sable, Freelance, #9, Sable escapes from a Right-Wing Militia Fanatic group who come after him using tracker dogs.
  • Tintin's dog Snowy regularly picks up trails. He's not usually successful, though; on at least one occasion, he was actually going after a bone rather than the criminals Tintin was trying to catch. Tintin also scatters pepper in one story to put an enemy dog off the scent.
  • Used as a Mundane Solution punchline in Rivers of London: Action at a Distance. When Nightingale says he can find the suspect if he has an item of clothing, Angus, knowing that Nightingale is a practitioner, assumes he's going to do some kind of divination. It turns out that Nightingale's dog, previously only seen as a lump in his basket, is a bloodhound.

    Fan Works 
  • In With Strings Attached, George becomes a dog in order to track Ringo, who has run off into the forest to escape the craziness in Aurion's tent.
    • In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, in order to track the missing Kyran Datoro, George becomes a bloodhound. Along the way he notes that he can smell the presence of dogs in Chandalla, but the locals apparently didn't think to use them in this manner.

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Fox and the Hound, Copper first meets Tod by tracking his scent. And then, because he's in training to be used as a hunting dog (though he doesn't know that), lets out the most earnest and adorable baby howl ever.
  • Ice Age: Defied.
    Sid: My family abandoned me. They kinda migrated without me. You should have seen what they did last year. I mean, they got up early, and quickly tied up my hands and feet, and gagged me with a field mouse, and barricaded the cave door, and covered their tracks, and went through water so I'd lose their scent, and... and... who needs them anyway?
    • In the A Mammoth's Christmas special, when Peaches, Sid, Crash and Eddie are missing, Ellie and Manny ask Diego for help to find them:
    Ellie: Diego, can you pick up Sid's scent?
    Diego: I can, but it makes my eyes burn.
  • In Lady and the Tramp, Trusty is a retired tracking bloodhound who has (seemingly) lost his sense of smell. When the Tramp is taken to the pound, Trusty tries to pick up the scent. Jock at first feels sorry for his old friend and tries to make him admit he can no longer track, but Trusty scoffs it off and continues. Against all odds, he manages to pick up the scent and arrives just in the nick of time.
  • In Shrek Forever After, Shrek gives Fiona's handkerchief to Donkey so that he can pick up the scent and find her. Donkey is at first insulted about being treated like a dog, but then smells something and goes after it. It turns out to be waffles set up as bait for a trap, although it does lead them to Fiona.
  • Maximus tracks Flynn this way in Tangled. (Maximus, by the way, is a horse. Whinnies instead of baying to be sure.)

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Dark Night of the Scarecrow, Otis and his lynch mob use dogs to track Bubba to the middle of the field where he is hiding inside the scarecrow.
  • Gates of Paris: The cops, looking for escaped murderer Barbier, come to the Artist's shack. They don't find Barbier, because he is hiding in the Artist's basement. Later a bloodhound leads its master to the shack, but the police, thinking the shack has been cleared, move on.
  • In Jurassic World Hoskins wants to use the raptors to track the escaped Indominus Rex, over trainer Owen's objections. Eventually he gets his way though, Owen grudgingly holding up the chunk of flesh I.Rex ripped out to remove her implant so they can recognize the scent.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
    Aragorn: [about the orcs] Their pace has quickened. They must have caught our scent. Hurry!
    • Inverted in that it is the orcs that are being pursued, and they've caught the scent of their pursuers (Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli) and are speeding up so they won't be caught.
  • The Mackintosh Man (1973) subverts the 'lose the scent via water' version when the protagonist uses the river to drown the dog instead.
  • Shoot 'Em Up. The villains bring in a German Shepherd to track the Badass and Baby, who refuses to shoot the dog. Instead he distracts it by leaving the baby's soiled diaper behind.
  • Willow has the hell dogs, which Bavmorda sends to track down the escaping nursemaid in the opening sequence. The nursemaid barely makes it to the water in time to drop the baby on a raft before the hell dogs are upon her.

  • The Amateur by Robert Littell. The protagonist overhears his superior at the CIA talking of how he threw dogs off the scent during World War 2 by urinating into the snow, and later uses this when being tracked by dogs inside Communist Czechoslovakia.
  • Animorphs had the Yeerks doing this with Taxxon trackers in one book. Jake uses it, too, with his morph of his dog Homer.
  • In The Berenstain Bears and the Missing Honey, Papa Bear and the cubs enlist Cousin Fred's dog Snuff to try to sniff out whoever stole Papa's special blackberry (boysenberry in the Animated Adaptation) flavored honey. At fist Snuff is misled by other things with the same scent: first perfume, then a fruit stew Grizzly Gran is making. But finally he leads them to Papa's own honey-covered pajamas, revealing that Papa has been eating the honey while Sleepwalking.
  • In Discworld, once criminals start hearing that a werewolf has joined the watch, they grow wise and carry 'scent bombs': a thin glass vial of peppermint oil or aniseed oil is shattered in a busy intersection, where hundreds or thousands of people will walk over it, obscuring the criminal's scent with theirs. Also, Moist Von Lipwig has an emergency escape plan (hatched after he heard the watch employs a werewolf) including detours through the butchering district and riding dung carts. Except that this won't work, since Angua can track a suspect through those. The one that does get her is the spice market. And that's only because the suspect in question has a smell of cloves that even humans can pick up, but so does the spice market.
  • Used by the killer in Dr. Thorndyke short story "A Case of Premeditation". Pratt, the blackmailer, lets slip that his wealthy employer keeps a pack of champion bloodhounds. So Dobbs, the killer, plants in advance a scent trail, using musk, that leads to a different man. Then after committing the murder he plants a second, identical knife at the scene, contaminated with musk. Sure enough, the bloodhounds follow the scent to the wrong person.
    • Thorndyke also criticises the use of bloodhounds in crime investigation (implicitly, in detective fiction) in the story, noting its advocates are thinking of the former use of bloodhounds to recapture escaped slaves in the US South - but those slaves were known individuals, whereas a criminal is usually an unknown without a recognised scent.
  • In Gene Stratton-Porter's Freckles, they try to use bloodhounds to find Black Jack. They follow his trail for an amazingly long time, but finally lose him in the depths of the swamp, which is attributed to snakes frightening the hounds.
  • Gaunt's Ghosts:
    • Traitor General: Landerson recognizes the sound and tells Gaunt that the dogs the Chaos forces are using have their scent.
    • In Blood Pact, the Chaos forces transform one of their number to do this, and later, when Mkoll picks up Gaunt's trail, Kolea phrases, "He has the scent."
    • The demon-possessed tank which stalks the Gaunt's party during the liberation of Gereon behaves like a preying animal and probably can catch their scent, although this remains ambiguous.
  • The Great Brain: Two boys and their female dog go missing in the cave system outside of Adenville. Tom, in one of his moments of genuine heroism, instructs the rescue party to bring the Fitzgeralds' male dog along: the missing boys' dog is in heat, allowing the Fitzgeralds' dog to find them. They also bring a strong-smelling cut of meat and rub it on their shoes periodically so that they can find their way back out afterward. (No word on whether puppies resulted.)
  • Stephen King's The Green Mile plays with this. A group of dogs track the two kidnapped girls at the beginning of the story, but get mixed up at the creek; two of them want to go in another direction. After the scent is reestablished, they go with the rest of the pack. Later, Paul figures out that it's because those two dogs weren't police dogs and got the smell of the killer and the girls mixed up in their head, so that when the killer ditched the girls at the creek, they went in his direction, rather than where the girls were eventually taken by John Coffey.
    • That is, the tracking dogs had to be primed with a scent, and the scent they were given was of the girls. The police dogs caught the third scent mixed up with them and knew from training that that was the real target Wild Bill's and tried to hunt that down. The others track what they were given to track. Where the two diverge, they disagree. When they find the scent of the girls minus the third scent, they all chase that down. The search party makes the obvious assumption when the dogs lead them to what is found - a blood-covered Scary Black Man with the mangled corpse of a white girl in each hand. Poor Communication Kills.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: In one of the Tarma and Kethry short stories, two kidnapped girls drop shreds of white silk out of the wagon they're being transported in. The silk is invisible against the snow the wagon is rolling through, but leaves traces of their scent that Tarma's kyree familiar Warrl can follow.
  • In John C. Wright's The Hermetic Millennia, the dog things invert; when they are done sniffing around, they howl in frustration at not finding the scent.
  • In Andre Norton's Ice Crown, the Duke tries to invoke this by getting the hound master to make a bait for the escaped Imfray. When he is told of the problems owing to the duocorn mounts, he orders one killed for the bait, even though it might hunt the pursuers' horses. The hound master being Imfray's friend, making the bait takes too long for it to be useful.
  • In Devon Monk's Magic to the Bone, Allie recounts how, to throw a Hound off your trail, you need to avoid using magic and cover up your smell with something else stinky. She opts for garbage.
  • Matthew Hawkwood and Lassuer are hunted using dogs in Rapscallion.
  • In Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest, they get the dogs on Rupert and Will's trail.
  • In N Or M, Agatha Christie's Tuppence Beresford has rubbed aniseed oil on her shoes so that she can be followed by the officials when she goes to meet a suspected spy. When the person escorting her to the meeting tells her to get into a car, she expresses doubt about the quality of the tires and kicks it several times, transferring the aniseed oil to the sidewall of the tire.
  • In John C. Wright's The Orphans of Chaos, when Grum sets Lelaps on Vanity and Amelia's trail, he finds them, turns away, and starts to bay, running off. Grum comments that he's found the scent.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "Red Nails", when Conan the Barbarian and Valeria are inching away from the dragon, the wind abruptly blows directly from them to it. Its reaction is instant, and they run.
  • In Sard Harker, Harker is chased by a mob and their dogs, and wades upstream to break the scent.
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, Lyrah finds a place where Daylen stood early on, getting his scent and using her powers to track him.
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • In The Sign of the Four, one of the criminals steps in creosote leaking from a cracked carboy. Holmes sends Watson to borrow "Toby", a homely mongrel with an amazing nose. At one point, Toby is confused when their quarry crosses paths with a creosote-soaked barrel on a hand trolley and follows the false trail, but they take Toby back to the spot where he appeared confused and he once again picks up the correct trail.
    • Toby also makes an appearance in The Seven Per Cent Solution.
    • In The Hound of the Baskervilles, the stealing of some old boots (that had the scent of their wearer) lets Holmes deduce that there is a real hound involved in the mystery.
  • In Andre Norton's Storm Over Warlock, the Throgs have a creature that can track them, and gives an eerie howl when it has their scent. Unsurprisingly, the human name for it is "hound."
  • In Ruth Frances Long's The Treachery of Beautiful Things, the fairy dogs bark all the way as they chase and hunt down the tracker who failed the queen.
  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Grey Hunters, Sven and Ragnar know there is trouble when they see the Chaos forces have dogs sniffing at a trail.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Courage and Honour, when two dogs grow frantic, Uriel does not use the phrase, but goes to check himself and smells human blood.
  • In the Rivers of London novella What Abigail Did That Summer, when Abigail finds a t-shirt that possibly belonged to one of the missing kids, she asks her talking fox friends if they can track a scent, and they embarassedly admit that they can't. Luckily, she's also recently made a contact who can supply a dog.

    Live Action TV 
  • The 10th Kingdom. Tony has asked Prince to sniff for clues. Prince instantly responds that (since they're in a farming village) it's mostly excrement at ground level, and there are hundreds of minor scents. Tony then flatters Prince by saying that a master hunter like himself should be able to find the scent they want instinctively. Prince says, "Correct," and off they go.
  • Played with in the Black Mirror episode "Metalhead". The protagonist uses a stream to temporarily dodge the Killer Robot Dog that's hunting her, but by placing the Tracking Device it tagged her with inside a bottle and floating it downstream. However it quickly regains her trail using its electronic sensors.
  • A couple CSI episodes use scent dogs. They lose the scent in one case. Another involves Nick’s dog Sam, whom he adopted after it was proven Sam didn’t kill his police partner. Sam finds what they’re after that time.
  • Game of Thrones. Season 6 opens with Sansa Stark and Theon Greyjoy fleeing Lord Bolton's bloodhounds, who catch up despite the fugitives crossing a river, and Theon trying to lead them off.
  • Leverage: A militia group uses hunting dogs to chase Eliot and Hardison in "The Gone-Fishin' Job".
  • Midsomer Murders: "The Night of the Stag" opens with a Pursued Protagonist being chased through an orchard at night by armed men with hounds.
  • The Mission: Impossible episode "Bayou" opens with a girl who has escaped from a white slavery ring being chased through a swamp by a hunters with a pair of dogs.
  • MythBusters busted pretty much all of the traditional methods of throwing a dog off the scent: just about the only place you might conceivably lose a scent dog is in an urban environment, where there are too many other scents for the dog to concentrate on yours. Unless they're using a dog that has been specially trained to ignore all other city scents, as they demonstrated, in which case you're screwed.

  • In Limp Bizkit's music video for "Eat You Alive", police dogs are shown sniffing out the scent of the woman the band has kidnapped, and they give chase.
  • "Ol' Red" is a tune about a prison guard dog with this ability and how a prisoner evades it. It takes years and help from the outside, but he manages to become the dog's handler, then gets the dog a girlfriend outside the prison walls. When he makes his escape, the dog disregards the scent of his old boss and chases down his poontang instead.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Most animals and some monstrous humanoids have the scent ability, which grants +4 to tracking checks if they can manage to pick up the scent. Tracking is based on the user's Survival, and any creature with the scent ability is guaranteed to have a high Survival-and scent is difficult to prevent (crossing a body of water is about the only guaranteed way to stop it).
  • In Werewolf: The Forsaken werewolves are naturally able to track people and, with the right gifts, spirits, by scent. They also have a ritual that allows one werewolf to communicate the scent of someone whose blood they've tasted to others by cutting their tongue and allowing other werewolves to lick the knife, they commonly use this rite to keep track of wolf-blooded about to Change, leading to the myth that lycanthropy is contagious rather than hereditary.

    Video Games 
  • The eponymous hero in Batman: Arkham Series. With his (bat?)scanner, he can extract separate essences (like tobacco stains or alcohol vapors) and then pinpoint them in the surroundings to track the smoker/drinker. For example in Batman: Arkham Asylum Bats has to find Frank Boles, an Arkham security guard, by the alcohol on his breath which Joker knew about and used Boles' corpse as bait.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, werewolves are a creation of the Daedric Prince of the Hunt, Hircine, and serve him as "hunting dogs". They are sometimes referred to specifically as his "hounds" in this fashion.
  • In Evolve this is Daisy's basic purpose. She can find the monsters tracks, even when they are hidden due to sneaking, and follow them to the monster. While this is useful for remaining on the monster's trail it is less useful for actually pinpointing the monster due to its speed, necessitating players to anticipate the behavior of their foe. On the monster's side, it can smell all animals, hunters, and pieces of equipment within its smell range, as well as hunter tracks. This allows it to track the hunters or avoid them by detecting them first.
  • Not exactly dogs, but in the opening cutscene of Halo 3, the Arbiter warns a group of humans about this, which results in this little exchange:
    Arbiter: We must go. The Brutes have our scent.
    Sergeant Johnson: Then they must love the smell of (depending on the difficulty level) green/hero/badass/testosterone/a real man/Bulgari.
  • In Episode 1 of Farnham Fables, the princes are looking for Gloria, a girl who got lost in the woods. Finding her requires Prince Philip to treat a sick fox, then give it Gloria's skirt, which they found in the woods, so it can track her scent to a hidden clearing.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a game example, where you are the one who picks up The Scent (in wolf form,) with many different smells presented throughout the game.
  • Monster Hunter: World: Scoutflies will usually aid their Hunter by clustering around objects of interest nearby. But if presented with the scent of a specific monster, they will swarm and form a trail along the scent, allowing the Hunter to easily track their prey. They become more effective at this the more familiar they are with the target's scent.


    Western Animation 
  • In the Classic Disney Short The Chain Gang, Mickey Mouse is pursued by a pair of bloodhounds after he escapes from prison. The bloodhounds are generally regarded as being the forerunners of Pluto the Pup.
  • In the Doug episode "Doug On the Trail," Mr. Dink goes missing in the woods, so Doug, Skeeter and Porkchop set out to look for him. Doug still has a handkerchief that Mr. Dink lent him when he sneezed at the beginning of the episode, so he has Porkchop smell it to track Mr. Dink's scent.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Back to the Woods", Peter and Brian try to search for Peter's wallet in a Chinese restaurant. Peter tries to get Brian to find it by forcing him to smell his ass (since that's where he last had it) and, despite the dog's initial disgust, he manages to pick up the scent and track it.
  • In the Futurama episode, "Hell Is Other Robots", when Bender is dragged to Robot Hell, Nibbler is able to track him down when he picks up his sent (vodka and motor oil).
  • Throughout the Scooby-Doo franchise, the title dog is mostly called upon to use his nose to lead the gang. While he's mostly successful, there are times where he makes mistakes, and is occasionally derailed by something tasty. In one particular instance where he teamed up with Don Knotts, Don had him smell a pair of socks belonging to a man he was searching for, and he ended up leading Knotts to a drawer filled with similar socks.
    Don Knotts: "You don't follow the smell of the socks! You follow the smell of the man who wore them!"
  • Police dogs seem far more competent in The Simpsons than actual police. Some examples:
    • In "Radioactive Man", Wiggum releases a bunch of police dogs to find a runaway Milhouse. However, his parents quickly realize that as police dogs, there's the little question of what they'll do when they find Milhouse.
      Kirk Van Houten: Will they just find him, or find him and kill him?
      Wiggum: Well, they'll... um, they'll... (murmurs gibberish)
      Kirk: Uh, you didn't answer me, you just trailed off.
      Wiggum: Yeah. Yeah, I did kinda.
    • In "There's No Disgrace Like Home", Eddie and Lou take a bloodhound named Bobo into Moe's; Bobo quickly starts to bark at Homer (seeing as he's the criminal they're looking for) but Eddie and Lou are too dumb to get the point, and take him out.
    • Both Scraps and Laddie played the Trope pretty straight while sniffing out narcotics in "Weekend at Burnsie's" and "The Canine Mutiny".
    • In "Homer the Vigilante", Wiggum tries to use a rather vicious one to get Homer's scent using a handkerchief, but foolishly wipes his face and underarms with it first.
    • Sniffy seemed like a good police dog until Wiggum told him to get Homer's scent via his underwear in "Natural Born Kissers". Poor Sniffy. The newspaper the next day said he was barely clinging to life.
  • The Tool Street Gang: In “Where’s Squirt?”, the titular gang search for their missing member by having Cog follow his scent.


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