I recently embarked on a new activity with my dogs. Nosework. I highly recommend it to anyone with a dog. Unlike agility, it doesn't require hours and hours of training. Nor does it require lots of expensive equipment or the need to learn any fancy handling moves. In my experience so far, dogs LOVE this activity. And just about any dog can be trained to do it: young, old, big, small, even so-called special needs dogs - deaf, blind, deaf AND blind, even those in a doggy "wheel chair" - can participate. Nosework is a completely dogcentric activity where you are simply fine tuning your dog's primary sense and learning how to read his body language.
I came to nosework after it was recommended to me as a way to help Poppy build some confidence. She has a lot of issues with stress and anxiety and these are sometimes amplified in agility, particularly in a trial setting where she feels the increased tension in the general atmosphere around the ring and where her sound-sensitivities kick into a high gear. Nosework is a low-pressure and rewarding activity for her. It's also a quiet, one-dog-out-at-a-time activity. Although it is not physically demanding activity, the mental stimulation and focus required helps to burn off the over-abundance of energy contained within Poppy's body even better than agility ever did. She sleeps soundly in her crate on the drive home after every class.
|Nosework is an activity completely led by the dog's sniffer|
As it stands now, Poppy is the only one of my dogs that actually goes to formal nosework class, but, since it's easy to train at home, Ollie and Hokey are being home-schooled right along side of her. Ollie has been doing this since I started taking Poppy to nosework class. Here is a video I made of Poppy and Ollie doing their nosework homework roughly 3 weeks after I started taking Poppy to class.
The primary focus of our level 1 nosework class was merely to build enthusiasm for the game. Building enthusiasm for the game was NOT exactly hard to do in Poppy's case. She gets so rev'd up over it, she starts barking as soon as we pull onto the highway near the veterinary hospital where we go for class and, other than when she's actually doing the search itself, doesn't shut up until I put the vehicle in drive to head home. It's all I can do not to have her launch herself down the stairs to get to the basement where the class is currently held.
Currently we are part way through level 2 class. In this class we no longer use boxes. The hides are done in more "real world" settings, such as in various locations around a storage room - on shelves, behind objects, etc. We are varying the rooms in which we work in, gradually working in tighter spaces, which can make locating the scent a little more tricky for the dog since the scent may fill the entire enclosed space. This allows the dog to hone its skill by narrowing the possibilities down to the area of highest scent concentration. The second half of level 2 class will focus on the other extreme; we will start doing searches outside where there is wide open space for the scent to dissipate, surfaces that affect the scent differently than those found indoors, and, of course, different air currents that carry the scent away from the hide. So far Poppy is a superstar in class - she works diligently and fast - and I'm looking forward to seeing how she does when it comes to the outside searches.
|Poppy stylin' in the new harness I bought her specifically to do nosework in|
Here are videos showing each dog doing nosework. Forgive the somewhat gravelly narration - I've been struggling with a bad case of bronchitis for the past few days.
First up is Hokey. I started her on nosework later than the other two dogs, but she is showing a lot of promise with it. Today was the first time I've ever worked her without any boxes, so she wasn't quite as fast as she can be, but she did an excellent job!
And finally, Poppy, my speed demon who needs to be challenged: