You may have heard that we are offering K9 Nose Work® classes at Encore. Introductory sessions are being offered on Friday mornings at 9:30 a.m. starting May 4. But what exactly is nose work, and why might it be a fun thing for you and your dog?
Nose work is both an activity and a sport – everyone can participate in the activity, but you only do the sport side if you want to compete against other dog/handler teams for titles and ribbons. The activity is like detection dog work, except we search for food and novel odors (birch, anise and close) instead of bombs or drugs or bed bugs or cell phones. Dogs can be trained to search for just about anything, and their noses are SO much better than humans, they can detect odors at levels we would never notice.
All dogs have the ability to use their noses to hunt. While some breeds may have more natural drive and ability, the beauty of nose work is that any dog can participate. Since it’s not life and death, we don’t need to limit it to the top 1% of professional working dogs like military or law enforcement. In nose work, we give the dog permission to do something it already knows how to do, and that is to find an odor and work it back to the source. In the wild, dogs had to do this to survive. These days, not so much, so it’s an incredibly fun thing for a dog to get to do something it was designed to do. Unlike obedience, agility, or other dog sports, the dog leads the way instead of the human. We may control the environment, but the dog controls the search. Once the dogs figure this out, they LOVE it!
But the benefits of nose work go beyond fun. If you have a dog that is shy or scared, nose work can help it build some confidence and independence. We move at the dog’s pace, and for some dogs, it’s a big success for them just to be able to approach a box and take the treat inside it, in a new environment with people watching. On the flip side, if you have a high energy dog that is constantly wanting to go outside, play, walk, run, or do anything besides be quiet, nose work can help burn off some energy and teach them to focus and problem solve. If you have an older dog that can’t do a lot of physical activity anymore but still enjoys doing something with you, nose work is a great pastime. It doesn’t have to be real physical but is always mentally challenging. If you have a dog-reactive dog that can’t go to dog parks or play with other dogs, you can still do nose work. We run one dog at a time and they stay in a crate when it’s not their turn, so reactive dogs are welcome. And if you just want to do a cool thing with your dog, to be able to communicate better, read its body language better, and learn about how it perceives the world, nose work gives you a chance to do that.
There’s not much needed to begin, just a hungry dog, some high value food treats (or a toy if your dog is very toy motivated), a collar and six-foot leash, and someone at least 16 years or older to be the dog’s handler. The dog should be at least six months old, too. If you take our classes at Encore, the proceeds go to helping area shelter dogs become more adoptable. (We do nose work with the shelter dogs, and they love it too!) Leave a comment or call 256-403-0723 and ask for Julie if you have any questions about nose work. I am a certified nose work instructor™ through the National Association of Canine Scent Work® and I love introducing people and dogs to this very fun, very neat activity!