Nose work trains dogs to seek out specific scents. In beginning classes, it’s as simple as finding a treat in one box among several. In later classes, a dog searches out odors like birch, anise or clove hidden in different ways and levels throughout a room.
This is the same type of training that bomb-detection, drug-sniffing, cadaver searching or customs dogs go through.
Fido and I go to Scott-Fox Training for nose work classes taught by Penny Scott-Fox, CNWI (Certified Nose Work Instructor), and a Fellow of the Pet Behavior Institute in Durham, England.
There have been adjustments on both ends of the leash as we explore this new type of training. The differences from an obedience class are distinct:
- In obedience classes, dogs are trained to focus on their handler, listen for a command and then carryout the command.
- In nose work classes, a dog is given a single command (“find it,” “hunt” or “search”) and then sniffs out the treat or odor on his own without guidance or cues from the handler.
- In obedience classes, it’s essential to give the dog a reward as quickly as possible after correctly obeying the command.
- In nose work, finding the treat is self-rewarding.
- In obedience classes, dogs are most often trained on leash.
- In nose work, dogs are taken off leash to freely search out the targeted scent.
Nose work is a great sport for older dogs or those with hearing or sight problems. It’s great for Fido, who at 12 is having a harder time seeing and hearing than he used to. Nose work class is forcing him to stop look at me for direction and work out the solutions for himself. He’s also had to overcome his fear of sticking his nose into a box. He’s thrilled to be free to hunt treats.
In nose work, the dog always comes out a winner. Tracking things by scent comes naturally to dogs. In our class, the retriever puppy consistently finds the treat in seconds — unless he’s romping past the right box so fast he doesn’t pick up the smell. Other dogs take their time finding the right box, but all dogs eventually get the treat.
It’s an excellent sport for any dog that is treat-motivated. (Taking a hungry dog to class and using really tempting treats that the dog loves helps, too.) It can be done with toy-motivated dogs, but it’s a little more challenging.
The sport of K9 Nose Work — detection-style training and competition for pet dogs — was officially organized in 2009, when the first official National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW) trail was held here in Southern California.
Disclaimer: This post was written without out any compensation, discounts or other consideration from Scott-Fox Training or any other organization related to canine scent work training. We paid full fees to take this class.