There’s a new sport for dogs called “K9 Nose Work” that tests your dog’s ability to use their sense of smell to find food that’s hidden from them. Well, isn’t that what our dogs are doing all the time? At least mine are. In fact, Birdie, my 1 yr old rescued Lab, has now learned to open the kitchen cabinets where I used to keep dog food and treats and now keep only canned food. She did bring me a can of dog food in bed the other day which she took from the cabinet hoping I could open it for her while still in bed. She obviously wanted to eat but didn’t want me to have to go downstairs to feed her. She’s so thoughtful.
So while Birdie continues to search for hidden food at home, I just started taking classes in “K9 Nose Work” with Happy, my new Lab/Shepherd mix who I adopted in January, and we had our first class Tuesday night. Here’s how the sport/game works: there’s a large room with various-sized cardboard boxes placed around it and one of them has some of the treats that I brought from home that I know Happy loves placed in it. After getting a verbal release, while either on or off her leash, Happy is allowed to start hunting for the hidden food and goes from box to box to see if she can find it. Well, not “see;” I mean “smell” if it’s there. Along with the certified K9 Nose Work instructor Jenny West Schneider from Camp Canine, we would watch Happy pick up the scent and make sudden U-turns to check out the box where she thinks the food is hidden. After she would find the food, Happy was allowed to eat it and was also given another treat by Jenny to reward her for her successful “hunting.”
Happy learned the game quickly and I could tell she loved this new game because she wagged her tail the whole time she was playing. Being happy isn’t unusual for Happy because that is how she got her name after all but she seemed totally engaged in the game and each time it was her turn, she was ready to search again.
There are no rules for “K9 Nose Work” except that the room is kept quiet while dogs are doing their searching so that they wouldn’t be distracted by anything. When I held the leash on our first few hunts, I had to hold it loosely and just follow wherever Happy wanted to go even though she’s looked back at me a couple of times to see if I knew where the food was.
And I love this new game too because I enjoy just being in Happy’s company so much and just seeing how quickly she picked up the game made me very proud of her. “K9 Nose Work” is a sport where dogs can win various titles if they perform various scent searches but there is no competition between dogs. It’s a sport where there’s no stress, no contact with other dogs, no commands and no winners or losers. It’s kind of the anti-sport for those of us who just like to spend fun time with our dogs and don’t feel a need to make them do anything that seems forced. It’s really just a big game of hide and seek with the food treats hiding and the dogs seeking.
During the week between classes, Jenny gave us an assignment to continue the box work at home. Off we go to do our homework…..
If you’re interested in taking “K9 Nose Works” classes or if you need a dog trainer for individual lessons or classes, contact Jenny at Camp Canine. She teaches only positive training techniques and has graduated from several of Pat Miller’s courses as well as many others. I highly recommend her.