I recently enrolled Salza in a scent class. We have played around with some nosework based on a Fenzi online class that I took. But since winter is a good time for indoor activities we enrolled in a class at Paws4ever. And she really loves it! I started nosework with Salza because she sometimes lacks confidence. She loves BarnHunt so we are giving this a try.
The basis of nosework is to train your dog that identifying a particular scent=reward! Right now I am working with birch, but in our class we have dogs learning to find mushrooms, deer antlers, and more. We started out just rewarding the dogs for sniffing the container with their scent. Over time we are upping the ante-being able to identify the scent when there are several containers and then moving to finding the scent when it is more hidden.
Dogs have phenomenal noses-they have a sense of smell at 10,000 times more acute then our own! Why is this? They have up to 300 million olfactory receptors compared to the human’s 6 million. And the part of the brain responsible for smell is 40 times larger then a human’s. All of this adds up to a great sense of smell! But most of the time, we are inhibiting our dogs sense of smell. When we go on walks, we get annoyed when the dog wants to stop and smell everything. We get frustrated when they great new people and dogs by using their nose. Nosework takes that great sense of smell and let’s the dog use it.
We started our class with “activating” our dog’s noses. Why? Again because we have often taught our dogs two things: 1) not to sniff a lot 2) to pay attention to us instead of working independently. We started by using food hidden in boxes to let the dogs sniff it out and then self reward by eating the food. Other things you can do are play games with food at home. Some games are:
- Scatter your dogs food throughout the house and make them find it. Of course start easy with your dog watching you hide treats/food and then as they get better make it harder
- Use a snuffle mat (you can make or purchase one) to put food into.
- Scatter your dogs food in the grass and make them hunt for it.
- Use puzzle feeders where your dog has to scent out food.
- And so much more…
Nosework is great for all dogs-puppies that are not ready for more active sports such as jumping, older dogs that need to step down from higher intensity sports, dogs that are busy and need a job to occupy them, or for the owner that just wants to do something fun with their dog! Many training facilities are starting to offer scent or nosework classes as the demand for them increases. So check it out!
For more information visit these websites:
Boo Donoho, DVM
Southern Animal Hospital