It's a fairly common movie trope that when someone is being chased by dogs they will run through water to "lose their scent" and the dogs will no longer be able to follow the trail of the one pursued.

If this is true to a degree, a sub question would be if it's possible to "re-pickup the scent" by tracing the perimeter of the body of water. In other words, is it just the connectivity of the trail that's broken, or is the scent lost for good during this particular pursuit?

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    It was tested in at least one of Mythbusters episodes
    – vartec
    Dec 9, 2011 at 11:55
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    How soon do you need to know?
    – John C
    Dec 9, 2011 at 13:20
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    I have never heard the claim in the form of "lose a scent", only that it is difficult to find a track which is "broken" and cannot be followed continuously - that is why usually one does not leave the water at easily predictable spot.
    – Suma
    Dec 9, 2011 at 15:59
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    @Hendy - movies are not always exactly the truth... sorry to break it to ya this way :-)
    – Rory Alsop
    Dec 9, 2011 at 22:56
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    @Hendy: Actually, they should search up-and-down on both sides of the stream in case their target decided to be sneaky and just run through the water only for a short distance without ever crossing to the other side. Dec 10, 2011 at 4:38

1 Answer 1



This was actually tested in MythBusters (episode 74, which is in Season 8).

In fact, that personal perfume is strong enough that none of Jamie's bloodhound-busting tactics worked. He zigzagged and doubled back on his trail, ran through a river, washed and changed clothes, doused himself in coffee and cologne, and even covered his tracks in ground pepper — all to no avail. Each time, the bloodhound sniffed right through the ruse and found the hiding Hyneman.

They were only able to confuse the dog a little bit - when they changed out of their clothes, there was so much scent, that the dog wasn't sure where to go. But within a few minutes, the dog picked up the track again and found Jamie within minutes.

  • Can you find something better than mythbusters? We do not consider it a reliable source.
    – Sklivvz
    Apr 1, 2012 at 15:32
  • I will look for another source, however I must ask as to why mythbusters is not considered a reliable source? While it is on television, everything they test is done using the scientific method, and retested showing that it can be reproduced if tested again. I'm not sure what would disqualify them that wouldn't disqualify any other scientifically tested results by another source.
    – Ephraim
    Apr 1, 2012 at 15:37
  • Well, because the experiment are usually very small, not peer reviewed, the methodology is not clear, etc. We have discussed it here and here
    – Sklivvz
    Apr 1, 2012 at 15:50

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