I have just read (in Polish) a 1985 crime novel, by Norwegian author Gert Nygårdshaug. It seems, that it wasn't translated to English. Its original title is Honningkrukken.

There's a tiny end-story note that main character took a bottle of liquid star anise (Illicium verum) and, when running away from dogs hunting him, he spread this spice around his path.

The narrator explained, that every dog is extremely sensitive to the smell of star anise. The desire to sniff any item, that smells like star anise, is so strong, according to book author, that every dog, even hunting one, will drop their hunting or prey and immediately stop at that place.

I'm an extreme newbie to this area, but that sounds like an absurd to me. Mentioned book is filled with similar mistakes and strange theories, so I'd like to verify this one.

The novel was generally very poorly written and is full of obvious mistakes or obviously incorrect assumptions, so above may be a complete mistake that I'd like to clarify.

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    I won't post as an answer because it's so anacedotal, but I enjoy star anise and often cook with it and I've never noticed our dog taking even the slighest interest in it. That's despite I'm pretty heavy-handed with it sometimes and can easily smell the aroma myself throughout a lot of the house.
    – PeterJ
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 11:38
  • I think, this is a quite pretty good answer, even though, it has no verifable source, except your own experience. If your dog isn't interested at all in anise smell, then by no mean we can expect that a hunting dog will drop its seek / prey after smelling the same smell. Am I right?
    – trejder
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 12:27
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    This legend plays a part in a well known Jeeves and Wooster story and video where Wooster is trying to recover a dog that was given away by mistake.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 17:33
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    I don't know how sensitive they are too it, but I recently purchased some dvds on teaching scent work to dogs, from Leerburg Kennels, and they say that star anise is one of a few scents they use in scenting competitions that the dog has to detect.
    – Dalton
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 21:21
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    @trejder I know where you're coming from. However, the "competition" I was referring to wasn't for the best of the best. It was billed as a way for everyday people to compete, without having to put massive money in a dogs breeding and training. They had everyday lapdogs in it and it didn't require a lot of physical dexterity on the part of the dog or handler. This was an alternative to this companies main business of training protection and Schuntzhoud (probably mangled the spelling) dogs.
    – Dalton
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 20:17

1 Answer 1


While not an especially scientific test I often cook using generous amounts of star anise and have never noticed our dog taking any particular notice of it. Since reading your question on one occasion I left a small amount of warm broth with quite a large amount of star anise and on other occasion left a small bowl with a whole star anise steeping in warm water near him but just out of reach. On both occasions apart from the initial interest in what I was doing he didn't seem to pay any particular attention to them and certainly wasn't trying to get at the bowls.

I read with interest Dalton's comment about using it to train dogs for scent detection for amateur competitions. Something similar I found at Training for detection play which seems to be aimed at being accessible to everyone says the following in recommending a particular scent kit:

The kit contains 3 scents. Birch, Anise, and Clove. They are very distinctive essential oil scents, and the dogs take to them quickly. The watertight box also contains scent holders (Q-tips) 3 eye droppers and a single aluminium scent holder. This is the quickest way to get the proper scents, and the cheapest.

While star anise and anise are different they do share a strong and distinctive scent that I find easy to detect with my less sensitive human nose. I'd guess that dogs don't have any natural affinity with star anise; it's simply a cheap and affordable scent to train them with and something likely to be easily distinguished in most environments.

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