I personally love the idea of learning to explore the world my dogs live in by following their lead
. Often when I talk about “nose work” families will think I mean search and rescue type work. The truth is that nose work can mean lots of different things
. It can mean detection work such as diabetic alert or even drug sniffing. Nose work can be tracking.
It can be “find the kibble” games and it can be any number of activity mats, enrichment toys
and even hide and go seek games with a human or a toy.
For me, learning about their noses and how dogs experience the environment so very differently than we do is fascinating. I like the idea of being able to provide enrichment for my dogs just by learning more about their “sniffs.” I recently got to see Suzanne Clothier speak and one of many things she talked about (I cannot highly enough recommend her body of work) is that we are “dumb” in so many ways that our dogs are smart. We walk past the dead, petrified frog in the grass and don’t even notice it. This begs the question do our dogs then see us as less reliable sources of information? I mean, if we don’t notice the rabbit poop in the grass, what are the chances we can actually feed ourselves?
There are lots of books, classes and videos out there that you can use to get started. Most of the families that choose to work with us want to do the work just for fun. They don’t care to compete or title their dogs. Often people with short-nosed breeds like pugs and French Bulldogs think that the dogs can’t participate in nose game. Nothing could be further from the truth. While my pug, Alberto, might not have scent prowess on the same level as your Bloodhound, he can still enjoy the games and the activities.
There are other benefits too. Often even reactive dogs can take a nose work course or even work in your home or out at a park in a secure location. You can do nose work on a leash or in a room. You don’t have to worry about how your dog will handle other dogs or new people or places… you can play the games and do enrichment wherever you are. Equipment can be simple or complicated. I have families that have high energy dogs that 3-4 searches for the dog’s plain, empty, clean Kong™ toy, tire the dog for the evening. And in many cases a quick search in nearby grass can help a dog work past a stimulus that is overwhelming or scary, giving them something pleasurable, fun and positive to do instead of trying to chase the kiddo on the bike. Of course, use a leash and work a bit away from the street/sidewalk.
A quick YouTube search will give you lots of “how to teach your dog nose work”
videos. Some are simple, and some are more complicated… just find the one that works for you and your dog
or take a class. You may get the “bug” and decide you want to do more formal training later. For now, all we want to do is introduce a new game
to our dog’s routine.
I use snuffle mats and activity mats and brain games
with my dogs, puppies and dogs in classes. I love that thee enrichment opportunities involve us AND our dogs
not just giving the dog something else to do. I like using toys, mats loaded with a few treats, etc. as rewards for polite leash walking
or coming when called, getting the food out of my pocket or bait bag, and instead in the environment. I like that I can use nose games to build a brilliant down or sit stay
. And frankly, releasing my dogs to “Go Sniff”
or “Go Hunt!”
(for treats or a hidden toy or scent article) is a really great way to enrich our lives together and our learning
I hope you have found this article helpful and interesting. Let us know what sniffy games or enrichment games your dog likes