K9 scent work also known as K9 Nose Work ™, nose work or scent work, is a recent sport for pet dogs in Australia where a dog has to locate an odour and indicate to the owner/handler its location. It’s similar to the daily tasks of a professional scent detection dog, but it’s adapted in a way that’s fun for both the owner and the dog and suitable for all breeds, age, size of dog and their owner, even dogs with reactivity or other behavioural issues can be included in the sport.
What Does Scentwork Training Involve?
In K9 Scent Work, dogs are trained to search for a target odour; the more advanced the dog and owner become the more advanced the searches are made to challenge the team. In K9 Nose Work ™ for example the dogs are trained to locate 3 trained target odours (birch, clove and Anise) in a variety of elements including containers, interiors, exteriors and vehicles. There are more and more organisations taking up this sport and adding different elements and odours to their curriculum.
Training your dog to recognize and locate scents can be quite simple, no matter which breed it is. As long as your dog has a nose, it can be easily trained. Depending on your dog it can be other aspects that need to be trained like hunt drive etc.
What is Scent Work Dog Training?
Scent work training is a form of positive dog training that teaches your dog to detect a hidden target odour in different locations. Once it does, you need to reward the desired behavior with a highly valuable reward whether its food or your dog’s favourite toy.
This type of training is slightly different from other
dog training as it doesn’t involve obedience. Instead, your dog (uses the tool
that it already has and is already fine-tuned… it’s nose! All we do is guide it
in the right direction)
. There are only a few commands during the
training, and the dog doesn’t need to pay constant attention to you and learns
on it’s own which is highly effective.
The recreational training also differs from the scent training for dogs that are certified for detection. Since the purpose of it is recreational competition, (it can assist with behavoural issues, give confidence to the nervous dog, calm the excitable dog as it tires the dog out mentally and physically, ) rather than police work or Customs work who are searching for contraband which can lead to detection of drugs, firearms and other contraband.
How Scent Training Is Started:-
One of the first steps in training your dog to hunt for a desired item can sometimes include building drive (which is the dogs desire to hunt for a certain item), in this case food or it’s favourite toy.
Trinny would repeat this over a few visits for training, Then she might start changing the locations and search settings. It’s crucial that you remain patient during this step and improve your handling skills by carefully observing your dog and its searching behavior.
Once you and Trinny are confident that your dog has
enough skill, stamina, and hunt drive
, it’s time to introduce the target
odours. Trinny will do this by introducing different odours when the dog is
Trinny Will Guide You Through The Training Process.
Step 1: Introduction to the hunt/search
This will include teaching you and your dog how to become a great detection team by building handling and detection skills.
Step 2: Finding the scent
This step includes the introduction to the target odour where you will learn the best way to reward your dog whilst still maintaining a great search pattern.
Step 3: Switch the settings
The odour will be placed in a variety of locations and scenarios to sensitise your dog to search in those types of locations and scenarios without hesitation and with confidence.
While you do this, make sure to build communication with your dog and observe its behavior.
These are just the basic steps of the Scent Work dog training. Trinny will hold your hand and lead you through these stages and then onto the more serious and complicated training which requires an expert with Trinny’s experience.
Benefits of Scent Training for Dogs
Scent work training is a perfect bonding activity to engage in with your dog. It’s also physically and mentally stimulating for them – when they try to detect a scent they use a large amount of brainpower, meaning a nice long nap awaits afterwards.
The focus that your dog develops while doing scent work training can also help with a variety of behavioural issues as Trinny trains using the K9 Nose Work ™ methodology where only one dog is worked at a time allowing the reactive dogs to attend, the shy and nervous dogs to attend and anything in-between. Shy dogs, can even finally gain confidence and feel much more comfortable in their surroundings.
The gained confidence can do so much more for your dog, with some owners reporting that their dogs overcame their separation anxiety thanks to building their confidence from nose work training.
Scent Work Competitions in Australia
Australia has its own organization for this sport, called the ACSW (Australian Canine Scent Work). They help host and reward the best performers in this sport.
Trials are dividedinto three levels: NW1 (one target scent), NW2 (two target scents), NW3 (three target scents). The levels all have different difficulties and environmental distractions, each one more difficult than the other. More information can be found on the website.
Besides officially organized events there are also certified trainers for nose work that can help get you and your dog prepared for the competition.