I looked down and had only one question: Who stole my polite, well-trained dog? And why did they leave this hell-spawned doppelgänger in her place?
I had to find a way to calm my dog. She had apparently gone crazy. Time to play nose work games to calm my dog.
I Thought It Was A Good Idea
We decided to spend December in Beaufort, North Carolina while my husband met some work deadlines.
Warmer than Maryland, Beaufort was a nice small town. And I enjoyed Christmas shopping, watching the fishermen working at the docks, and visiting the maritime museum.
Honey liked playing with the terrier who lived a few slips down, D.O.G. (Yes, that’s really his name.) And greeting the many dog-loving people who hang around boats and docks.
I was looking forward to attending the Christmas festival that would be set up on the courthouse lawn, a few blocks from where we were docked.
According to the flyers, the festival would have craftspeople, vendors from the weekly farmer’s market, entertainment, and food.
We planned to walk over with Honey. I packed her dinner and bowl so we could feed her at the same time we were eating.
Sounds like a great plan, right?
But then my dog went crazy.
The Day My Dog Turned Crazy
Since she was a puppy, Honey has attended fairs, festivals, and events. She knows how to ignore other dogs, doesn’t mind crowds, and is very polite.
Until this day.
As we approached the festival grounds, Honey started pulling. She became very excited and had trouble walking calmly by my side near the craft tents. We saw a small dog on leash and Honey went insane.
Why was she acting like an untrained puppy? And more importantly, how would we calm her down before ruining our nice day?
How To Calm A Crazy Dog
My first thought was that Honey needed to run off a little energy.
We took her to an empty area of the lawn and tried to interest her in playing. But she was too distracted and hyper to even enjoy a game of bitey face with my husband (someday I promise you I’ll get video; it’s hilarious).
Okay, exercise didn’t work. Maybe she’s hyperactive because she’s hungry and all the food smells are too exciting.
I took out Honey’s bowl and fed her.
Thirteen seconds later, her food was gone and she was still acting like a crazy puppy. We tried walking by the vendors again but it was a complete disaster.
We were on the brink of going back to the boat when I had an idea. We’d play nose work games to tire her out.
Work The Brain To Calm The Dog
I handed Honey’s leash to my husband and asked him to distract her enough so she wouldn’t see what I was doing. I then took the stinky, soft treats I had packed in my treat bag and placed them carefully—on the ground, on the seat of the picnic bench, and nestled into the roots of a large oak tree.
I then told Mike to bring Honey over.
I said to her, “Honey, find it.”
Hearing her normal cue for nose work games, Honey got to work. She put her head down to the ground and started sniffing for whatever I had hidden for her.
It was amazing to watch. The slight breeze would send her sniffing away from the table. But as the scent faded, Honey knew she was going in the wrong direction. She shifted her attention closer to the first hidden treat and finally narrowed in to find it.
After she had eaten the first treat, Honey looked at me expectantly. I told her again, “Find it.” And Honey got to work.
This time she quickly realized the scent was not coming from the ground. She lifted her head and started sniffing the picnic bench.
Finally, success. And another treat.
We repeated the game until Honey had found every one of the treats I had hidden.
I gave her a drink and we returned to check out the vendor’s displays accompanied by the calm and focused dog I had loved for more than six years.
The crazy dog was gone. All because she got a chance to tire out her brain.
Nose Work is Tiring Work
I’m no scientist. So I can’t tell you what’s happening in Honey’s brain when she’s sniffing for treats.
What I do know is that Nose Work focuses her brain.
It’s difficult. It’s tiring. And Honey loves it!
I have also brought out Honey’s clicker and done basic trick training to help her focus, most notably when she got scared during a thunderstorm.
But learning new tricks with the clicker arouses Honey. When she finishes searching for treats using only her nose, Honey is mellow, relaxed, and calm.
Honey and I started playing Nose Work games when we took a class at our local shelter back in Ithaca, NY.
We have not progressed to pairing food rewards with scents like they do in competitions. For us, it’s just a fun game. If you’d like to know how I taught Honey to sniff out treats (and toys) when I tell her to find it, check out my Nose Work tutorials to get you started.
Emma, Bailie, and Madison over at MY GBGV Life are all competing or learning to compete in Nose Work and Tracking. If you think you’d enjoy this fun sport with your dogs, check out the archive of all their posts on Nose Work and Tracking, especially the description of Madison’s first Nose Work class with video.
I encourage you to think about exploring Nose Work with your dog, whether you want a fun game to play at home or would like to compete in a new dog sport.
But you should definitely consider it if you have a crazy dog. Because sometimes the only way to connect with a dog’s brain is through her nose.
Photo credit: Thanks to rjones0856 for allowing his photo of downtown Beaufort to be used under a Creative Common license.
Your Turn: Does your dog ever get crazy? How do you manage?
We’re joining the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Tenacious Little Terrier, Travels with Barley and Wag ‘n Woof Pets. Click the links below to see some great posts on Calming & Impulse Control.