Lucy – A Nose Working Dog

Lucy is a shelter dog from the League for Animal Welfare in Anniston, Alabama. She is an incredibly happy, outgoing medium-high energy beagle/yellow lab mix. She’s around 3 years old and weighs a stocky 50-60 lbs. Lucy loves people and other dogs. She walks nicely on a leash when people work with her regularly – otherwise she can backslide and start pulling on the leash or jumping up for attention.

Lucy is smart, and that smartness, combined with her desire to be around people, has actually gotten her returned to the League a number of times after being adopted. You see, she can climb over a four foot high chain link fence. If she is left in a back yard by herself, she may dig or break out.

However, you would think Lucy’s wonderful personality, goofy smile, and 100% dedication to her “person” would more than make up for having to manage her escape attempts. She can lift anyone’s spirits just by prancing into a room and plopping down for a belly rub. Once she gets a chance to burn off some energy, she is very happy to lie down and hang out with people.

To help her burn off some of that energy, I started doing nose work with Lucy during her visits to Encore. I am a certified nose work instructor with the National Association of Canine Scent Work® (NACSW). Nose work is like detection dog training, except we search for food (and eventually odors like birch and clove) instead of bombs or drugs. It gives dogs a job, helps them focus and burn mental energy, and taps into their instinctual ability to hunt.

Lucy is a natural at nose work. She is highly food motivated and loves to solve problems. Since she has not yet found her forever home, she comes to Encore frequently for training, and I decided to move her further along in nose work and put her on odor. Birch is the first odor we train on, and in the last six weeks Lucy has been introduced to odor in all four elements – interiors, exteriors, vehicle and containers.

K9 Nose Work® was developed by three professional dog trainers in California over a decade ago.  They started with retired working dogs, then took the concept to animal shelters in Los Angeles and were amazed by how much it helped the dogs there.  They ultimately began offering classes to companion dogs and their owners, and it has spread across the country.  There is a competition side for those that like to have their dogs compete in trials for time and placements.

The first step in having a dog compete in a nose work trial is to pass an Odor Recognition Test (ORT).  Twelve identical closed white boxes are placed in two rows with each box four feet away from each other.  One box has three cotton swabs that have been scented with essential oil of birch, taped to the underside of the box top.  The dog is on leash and has three minutes to search the boxes and communicate to its handler which box has the odor in it.  The handler calls “Alert” and if the dog identifies the right box, it passes the test.

A birch ORT is scheduled in Atlanta on July 21, and Lucy and I are going to participate!  I am so excited to see how she handles the rigors of travel and competition.  I think she will be a rock star.  Lucy is officially registered with the NACSW.  She has a lifetime membership.  If she passes the birch ORT, she can then compete in Nose Work Level 1 Trials and Element Specialty Trials.

I hope Lucy finds her forever home and family soon.  Until she does, we will keep progressing with nose work activities for her.  Stay tuned as we follow Lucy’s journey into nose work competition!  For more information on adopting Lucy, go to the League’s website at or their Facebook page @League4AnimalWelfare.

1 thought on “Lucy – A Nose Working Dog”

  1. Enrichment is so important for Shelter dogs, letting a dog use their natural ability and be rewarded for it…. just makes sense. Nose Work for dogs, tops my list and the methodology of training through NACSW certified trainers, for K9 Nose Work® is “all about the dog” a their success and enriching their lives Kudos to you for giving Lucy this gift.

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