Nose Work and Your Primitive Dog

If there is one thing I’ve noticed about my primitive dogs, it’s that they love to explore their world.  Sometimes they would rather do that than take treats or play with toys!  Sniffing is a huge part of that exploration, as they have a need to know what other dogs, people, and birds/small game have been around.  As such, and with my experience training detection dogs professionally, I figured that my own dogs could really have fun with the up and coming (at the time) sport of nose work.  Well, it turns out that I was right!

 Katie Brennan's Jari showing a great alert for this building hide!

Katie Brennan's Jari showing a great alert for this building hide!

Why is nose work so popular?  Part of the reason is because almost any dog can participate.  There are blind dogs, deaf dogs, and dogs with mobility issues who are successful in the sport.  And since there is only one dog in the search area at a time, dogs who may be reactive are able to search without issue.  It is designed to be only “one at a time” with no doggy onlookers because all searches in a trial setting are, of course, blind (so the handler has no idea where it is).  And even for those dogs uncomfortable around lots of people, this is a great sport since even the judges are a good distance away from the search area.  This ability to search without undue pressure for reactive dogs is one reason it can be such a confidence builder!

Another reason behind the popularity has to do with something I mentioned before – sniffing is instinctual.  Dogs love to do it!  When we train nose work we are pairing a specific smell with something that the dog loves (treats, toys, etc.).  Using their innate skills, the dog just has to tell us where the smell is coming from, and they get a reward!  How fun is that?!

 Not a primitive dog, but here is Katie working a Lab named Morgan at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center on the scent wall.  Morgan is now a certified, working narcotics detection dog.  And all his work he does for a chance to play ball or tug with his handler!

Not a primitive dog, but here is Katie working a Lab named Morgan at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center on the scent wall.  Morgan is now a certified, working narcotics detection dog.  And all his work he does for a chance to play ball or tug with his handler!

Nose work also does not require much space or equipment, making it ideal for people who might not have a yard, or a lot of money to spend on dog stuff.  Even if you want to compete, you do not need to put out a ton out of pocket unless you absolutely want to enter a lot of trials and/or seminars (which are always a fun time!).  Online classes are proving very successful (shameless plug – stay tuned for Couch Wolves online class announcements coming soon!), and practicing on your own is very easy once you understand a bit about scent theory and appropriate hide placement.  As you learn how to set hides, you can therefore create search puzzles that are easier for motivation and confidence building, or more difficult, to really push your dog and make them think, and everything in between!

The last reason I will mention has to do with personality types for primitive dogs in particular.  Many of them are labeled as independent and aloof, reactive and dog aggressive.  And indeed some are supposed to be just that!  So rather than putting them in to a position of having to work off leash at close proximity to other dogs running as in agility, or being touched/close to a judge looking on as in obedience, nose work gives these intelligent dogs the productive mental outlet we as owners are constantly wanting to provide.   

 Katie's Kimma alerting to a vehicle hide during a trial

Katie's Kimma alerting to a vehicle hide during a trial

Do you participate in nose work with your primitive dog?  Share your training journey and brags in our Facebook Community!