K9 Nose Work – What’s It Good For?

Golden Retriever Sniffing

All these pictures are either blurry or just focused on my butt. Can't you keep up with me better?

Last night we had our 5th (out of 6) session of K9 Nose Work and Honey still loves it. When it’s her turn to search, Honey goes tearing down the hall to the sniffing room door before looking back to see if I’m with her.

As I put my hand on the door handle, Honey lowers her nose to the ground so she’s ready to go as soon as she’s free.

While Honey’s sniffing, she’s all business (except for the ball incident, she’s been very focused). But once she finds the treat and eats it, Honey does a victory lap where she greets every person with a wag and grin.

I know Honey loves nose work. And as I watch Honey and the other dogs in class, I’m finding a lot of good uses for these rudimentary but very fun classes. K9 Nose Work is great for:

  • giving “reactive” dogs a chance to participate in dog sports. There are no other dogs in the room during the search and human spectators are expected to be fairly quiet and still so as not to distract the dogs.
  • building confidence in shy dogs. One of the dogs in the class started the first search with her tail down and nearly between her legs. By the second search it was a bit looser. Now she starts each search with her ears up and tail neutral–she knows just what she’s supposed to do and how to do it.
  • exercising dogs who can’t be physically active. K9 Nose Work can be a good activity for dogs in recovery or senior dogs because it’s not very strenuous. Most of the exercise comes from working the brain and the nose.
  • exercising dogs whose people can’t be physically active. We’ve all been there–sick in bed with a crazy dog who needs exercise. For nose work, you only need to be able to hide the scent and then sit quietly while they find it. Not bad, huh?
  • bringing fun to your time with your dog. We all know what Cyndi Laupup sang: “Dogs just want to fun.” Well why not?
  • enriching your dog’s environment and stimulating him mentally. Modern dogs living in urban and suburban environments don’t always get the chance to make choices or learn. Once you set up the course, K9 Nose Work is all about your dog making the choices and following through.
  • recognizing your dog’s talents and nature. Dogs can smell many more times the scents of any human. Why not allow them to take advantage of their gifts?
  • exercising your dog when the weather isn’t cooperating. Some dogs (and many humans) hate to go out in the rain. Some dogs are very sensitive to cold or heat. K9 Nose Work can be done indoors without worrying about the weather.
  • going at the pace of your dog. If your dog is a sniffing genius, you might quickly move to having her search the whole house or finding things hidden in tricky places. If your dog’s sniffer isn’t quite as strong, you can hide the items in a way that keeps it easy for him. It’s a very adaptable activity.

Oh, and don’t make any assumptions about whether your dog is a strong sniffer. One of the best in our class was a pug. I had no idea such a pushed in face could make such effective use of her nose.

It doesn’t appear that the class we’ve been taking has enough participants to justify a more advanced, second series. But I want to keep up with this.

I’ve been taking notes so I can remember the steps we’ve been doing each week and how we’ve built more challenges into the course. If anyone else would like to have a description of the set up and activities for beginning nose work, leave a comment. If there’s some interest, maybe I can figure out how to link a PDF with some instructions to a page on the blog.

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Comments

  1. I still think hubby and Morgan would really love this! I’ve been following your talk about the class with interest and envy!

    • If hubby and Morgan do try it, I hope you’ll write all about it.

      I’ll try to have something up after the last class.

  2. I would definitely be interested. We’ve only done some nose work around the house and that has been a lot of fun. I can see a class being great for all the reasons you outlined above. I didn’t know pugs were able to smell as well as other dogs either. That’s so cool!

    I love the mental image of Honey’s victory lap around the room. What a happy dog she is.

    • If you’re playing sniffing games around the house, Shiva is probably already at the point we’ve reached in the class.

      I saw that the teacher is offering another beginning class in two weeks so maybe they’ll have enough interest for an advanced class soon and then we’ll really get cooking!

  3. Those are some great reason’s to start nose work. I hope people will try, dogs really love it. Looking forward to your PDF with instructions.

    • Our class is very basic and just starting with treat finding. I was really hoping we’d get to the point of pairing a different scent with treats but I don’t think we’ll make that leap in this class.

      I’ll definitely get something up (if I can figure out the technology–just how do you link a PDF to a web page?) and I hope you’ll add your knowledge to the experience.

      BTW, I read about Scent and the Scenting Dog over at your blog. I’ll definitely look it up.

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  2. […] week I promised to post some information about setting up K9 nose work games in your home based on the class Honey and I were taking. Unfortunately, snow postponed our last class so […]