As a dog owner, I’m sure you’ve noticed how often your dog uses his nose. Sniffing this, smelling that…it’s how dog’s get by in the world. And it’s no surprise when you realize that a dog’s sense of smell is tens of thousands of times more sensitive than ours. With that knowledge, it’s safe to say we really can’t smell anything at all! But since our dogs can, we might as well make the best use of it. That’s why we have detection dogs. Dogs are taught to detect a number of things, such as drugs, weapons, lost people, and even cancer. These dogs are trained to notify their human handlers when they’ve found such things, so we can take the appropriate action.
But what about our pet dogs? We can certainly train our dogs to search for just about anything. In fact, many people have taught their dogs using pseudo drug and cadaver scents, even if they aren’t actually going to go out doing real detection work. But not all of us can get our hands on such scents, or even want to be around those types of items. So what can we do?
Luckily, a relatively new sport is around that utilizes our dogs’ incredible gift to have some fun! K9 Nosework, as the sport is often called, is simply teaching our dogs to find certain scent in a variety of areas. There are competitions and titles that your dogs can earn, and they are open to every dog and handler! Whether you’re a novice with your very first dog or a retired detection trainer yourself, K9 Nosework offers a great way for you to work as a team and watch how your dog uses his natural scenting ability to conquer difficult tasks.
K9 Nosework uses scents such as birch, anise, and clove. Dogs are taught to locate these scents in a variety of areas. Some trials are held indoors with dogs searching various boxes and tunnels, while others are moved outside where dogs can do vehicle searches. You’ll feel just like a real detection dog handler! Right now, there are three titles that are currently offered, NW1, NW2, and NW3. Each competition, as usual, becomes more difficult as the dogs move up. For example, in NW1, only one odor needs to be found, whereas NW3 requires three different odors. There are a few extra titles dogs can earn and awards that are offered for rescue dogs as well.
In all, K9 Nosework is a fun sport that lets your dog use his natural abilities to succeed. The sport is becoming more and more popular with access to training groups growing by the day. Remember that you never need to be competitive to participate in any dog sport, you just need to want to have fun with your dog! Nosework is great because no dog is ever too old or too young to start learning how to do scent work. And no handler is too new or too seasoned! So don’t be shy, load up the car and get ready to watch your dog do his thing!
About the Author
Katie is a professional dog trainer located in Southern California, with a background of experience as a veterinary assistant as well. She has trained and competed with multiple breeds in AKC Obedience and Rally, agility, herding, Schutzhund/IPO, French Ring and conformation. She has been involved in dogs since she was a child, and specializes in protection dogs, working dogs, and aggression issues. You can visit her website, Katie’s Dog Training, to find out more information about her training and accomplishments. When she’s not helping others and writing, she’s out on the field with her Belgian Malinois and Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
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