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Wed Apr 1, 2020, 03:14 PM

A older article worth a re-read...............

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A Dog’s Nose Work Is Never Done

Nose work is a new sport in which dogs seek out specific scents. It’s also an opportunity to let dogs do what they do best.
The Outline |
Will Hagle

Professional dog trainer Sarah Owings claims her Labrador retriever Tucker was a “stir crazy boy in his kennel” when she first met him at the Glendale Humane Society. Tucker came from a breeder of field line retrievers — high-energy working dogs that, in order to be mentally and physically stimulated, require some sort of regular routine, like retrieving ducks or search-and-rescue. Owings, who promotes the use of positive reinforcement over punishment, said she learned that Tucker’s initial guardians had attempted to curb his undesirable behavior with harsh training methods. “None of it was effective, just really stressful for all involved,” Owings said.

“After four long years of what sounds like a nearly continuous battle of wills—human vs. dog—it was decided the best thing for all involved was to find him a better home.” After adopting Tucker, Owings quickly realized that what the dog needed most, aside from a healthy diet and a less aversive training regimen, was a job. Tucker’s job is doing nose work.

Nose work is a relatively new dog sport that mimics the types of tasks performed by drug detection or search-and-rescue dogs. In various indoor and outdoor venues, nose work dogs sniff out q-tips that have been infused with essential oils like birch, anise, clove, or cypress. During competition, dog-handler teams scan a designated area for a certain amount of odors in a predetermined amount of time. Dogs must communicate to their handlers that they’ve located a hide, pausing with their nose on the scent until the handler calls the word “alert.” Judges award points based on the dog’s timing in targeting all of the odors that have been hidden throughout the course. They subtract points if a handler misreads his or her dog and calls an “alert” where no odor is present. According to Owings, “Nose work is the fastest growing dog sport in the U.S.,” outpacing popular events like agility, conformation showing, and competitive obedience.

Watching a dog do nose work demonstrates the immense power of scent detection and working drive that almost all dogs possess. Whether it’s sheep herding or simply gnawing on a chew toy, most dogs enjoy having some sort of “job” to keep their bodies busy and their brains occupied. In nose work, once dogs understand that their task is to find a certain scent in exchange for a reward such as food or toys, they tend to happily scan even the most distracting environments with determination and focus. The intricacies of a nose work dog’s behavior while working is endlessly fascinating to observe, especially because each dog searches differently and each dog-handler team naturally forms its own unique method of communication. Some teams prefer to compete off-leash, for instance, while other dog-handler teams stay close together as they work through a search area. Each team also creates a system of “alerting” that a hide has been found, as a dog sits, pauses, wags its tail, closes its mouth, or otherwise communicates to its handler that they’ve located the scent.

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