The secret to a calm happy dog you've never heard of!
Introducing K9 Nosework…
The most amazing thing about Nosework is how confident dogs become after learning and doing Nosework!
The dog’s natural ability to smell is intrinsically motivating. Nosework games are for ALL dogs and super ideal for dogs needing more confidence, injured dogs, senior dogs, young dogs with energy that need a job, etc.
One of the many things I like about Nosework games is that you don't need to have a lot of equipment (or large equipment!) to start although you may find eventually that you've become a collector of many boxes and novel containers!
One of the easiest and best Nosework games to play with your dog is simply to hide their food and treats around the house. I’m always amazed at the focus, determination and enthusiasm Joe displays when searching for a just a few bedtime biscuits! Pair this with a ‘Find-It’ cue and without any effort at all you can condition ‘Find-it’ to become a very powerful cue to use in the presence of a distraction to re-focus your dog and get them back into thinking mode rather than reacting / distracted mode when you’re in more challenging environments.
The more creative you are in your hiding places the more honed your dog’s ability to search will become, start off really easy and hide the food in view of your dog and then as he gets more experience have him down stay (or be held by an assistant) in another room while you hide the tasty morsels. Start with hiding places on the floor and then start making it more difficult by hiding on different levels (obviously not on items you don’t want your dog to learn to climb on though!)
Watch your dog carefully and be prepared to help him out a little bit to keep his confidence high if necessary. It’s fascinating to watch and you’ll learn to spot the instant he catches the scent and then narrows his search area to locate the item. When he finds it praise lavishly and tell him how clever he is.
If you’ve setup multiple hides then it’s good to have a cue to tell him that he’s found them all like ‘all gone’ so he knows there’s not more to find.
Try it and I think you’ll both have fun.
Moving on from the simple searching for food games you can teach your dog to search for a particular target odour through the use of shaping and back chaining.
First the dog finds the odour by accident in a variation of the ‘It’s Yer Choice’ game. The dog is rewarded at source and then continues to offer that behaviour for reinforcement. We then use back chaining where we start with indicating/staying at source first before we do any searching/hunting for scent.
We want the dog to understand the value of odour itself, and to stay at source regardless of other distractions. The dog learns quickly that reinforcement happens when staying at source, which builds drive to search/hunt for the odour!