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Scentwork is for every dog.

Your dogs nose is amazing! It’s a complex structure capable of extraordinary feats of scent detection. Combined with their willingness to work alongside people it’s no surprise that we humans have used their super sniffing abilities to our own advantage.

Dogs today are used in a large variety of settings, using their incredibly sensitive nose to improve our lives and save our lives.

But how much do we acknowledge and empower our own pet dogs when it comes to their nose?

Your dog is just as capable as a trained sniffer dog when it comes to using their nose. That treat that fell under the cooker that your dog has been trying to get for the past week, no different from a drug sniffer dog telling you that’s where someone has hidden their stash. The difference is value. The value for the scent they are detecting.

Scent detection as an activity for pet dogs has really taken off in the last couple of years. In the UK there are numerous organisations which offer trials and training. Even if trials aren’t for you, Scentwork as an activity for your dog is hugely popular and offers a wealth of benefits.

  • Builds confidence.

  • Can help with reactivity, anxiety and prey drive issues.

  • Low impact.

  • Suitable for all dogs of any age.

  • Tiring

  • Strengthens bond between dog and human.

  • Easy to do anywhere.

  • It’s FUN!

I’ve been teaching Scentwork to pet dogs and their humans since 2017 and I have yet to meet a dog who didn’t thoroughly enjoy it. It’s the human side who can struggle to ‘get into it’. Which, to be honest, I find strange as I still find it absolutely fascinating watching and listening to dogs who are in the search.

Whilst it is a dog centred activity, the human half still plays a big role in the search. It encourages us to watch and learn our dogs body language, the difference postures and sounds they make whilst searching will tell us when the dog has come across odour. We can then help the dog if they are struggling by directing them to a specific area to locate the source.

Most classes teach a dog to find a specific odour and do what we call a ‘passive’ indication as close to the source as possible. This just means that the dog has been taught to do a specific behaviour such as freeze, stare, sit or down when they have found the source. Common odours taught for a passive search are Kong, Clove & Gun Oil.

Of course you can always teach your dog to find an item and bring it back to you. This would be classed as an ‘active’ search. I personally use items which have been impregnated with the smell of Catnip for this type of search.

With both types of searches, you can use any odour or item which is known to be safe for you dog.

Hiding a toy or treats for your dog to find is still a valid game of Scentwork and they are using the same skills as if they were sniffing out drugs, bombs, kong, clove or gun oil. Just make sure the toy or the treat is accessible to your dog so they can either pick it up or eat it.

Spend time watching your dog doing their thing with their nose. We can gain a good idea of how that odour is behaving, rising, falling, swirling, which way it is being carried on the breeze etc in turn giving us a greater appreciation for their ability. Alas, the complexities of how odour behaves within an environment is an article for another day as it can be very complex.

In short, encourage and empower your dog to use their nose. It is a marvel of evolution and is what your dog is all about. They will be grateful for it.

Happy sniffing!

By Clare Parker @ 4 Active Paws

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