What the dog Nose
What the dog knows
Dogs are truly remarkable, not a day goes by when I don’t marvel in their simple approach to life. If something works do it again, if it doesn’t, stop wasting time and move on. Its remarkably simple and effective and yet we humans always manage to complicate things. We spend thousands on toys and training gear when in fact the things our dogs love most are right in front of us at very little cost.
If there is one thing I’ve learnt running a rescue centre that focuses on enrichment and behaviour of dogs. We as pet owners do not let our dogs use their noses enough as a form of play, training and enrichment and I don’t understand why, they love it. I don’t just mean they enjoy it. Their whole bodies are thrilled to be out doing some scent work. For one, you are there with them out in beautiful nature, you’re not stressed, you’re not focused on them performing a specific behaviour your just spending quality time with them, letting them be a dog.
I know sometimes I tend to anthropomorphise my dogs and forget to let them just enjoy being a dog instead of my cuddle bunny, my well behaved doggie in public, my social butterfly, my agility dog, you get what I mean.
But at Dogtown we’ve discovered nose work helps us with rehabilitating reactive dogs more than any other activity. At the end of the day when their noses are engaged there’s very little room for them to focus anywhere else. The brain only allows for so many neurons firing at once and when a dog is focused on a scent ( remember scent is their most developed sense) everything else just disappears into the background. When the dogs concerns about the big wide world disappear they are open to developing a conditioned emotional response and this (CER) is the most effective tool to fight the part of the brain that stores emotions, emotions that scare and strike fear into them and cause them to react undesirably.
Some of the dogs that come into our care here at Dogtown have issues with reactive behaviour towards other dogs or people. We often use nose work exercises to help them have some mental release. They are so focused on tracking a scent, that the dog walking past is not even registered and the more times they experience this the less reactive they become to other dogs. They remember the “good” experience and thrive on it. At the end of a nose work session, when we take our dogs back to their garden they are completely spent. The rest of the day they snooze and are completely relaxed and it cost us nothing but out time. To be honest its also our caregivers favourite activity to do with the dogs as the same works for humans. When we are focusing on our dogs and their interactions, theres no room for you to worry about the days problems and that focus and concentration is tiring for us humans to, so dont be surprised if after even a short nose work exercise with your dog, you could do with a siesta yourself.
Your nose work exercise can be short and sweet to begin with and slowly increase distance and difficulty and Im sure everyone can spare 15 minutes a day with their dog to engage in something you both will love.
DogtownSA will be giving introduction workshops along with more advanced workshops this August, given by world renowned Uk dog trainer Steve Mann. So come and join us and learn to spend quality time with your fur kid. Because the Dog knows what they like.
From Steve Mann:
What IS tracking?!
How the dog ‘sees’ the track
Line handling skills
Presentations for theory
Practical tracking exercises
Building confidence in the tracking dog
All dogs must come with a comfortable harness and long line.