K9 Nose Work® is a specific methodology for teaching dogs to search for and find novel odour, but it is so much more for the dog than a fun party trick! The focus of the training is about building confidence, independent problem-solving skills, self awareness and focused, driven searching behaviour by helping pet dogs tap into their hunting instinct. Our focus in K9 Nose Work® classes is to set the environment up to allow this to happen, while we humans stand back, watch and learn.
The dogs get so absorbed in the joy of hunting (many speak about the activation of the SEEKING System in the brain or increased dopamine surges in certain brain regions, while the dog is engaged in hunting ) that they can more readily deal with their worries or fears. Good application of the K9 Nose Work® methodology provides the dog with control over their environment (off leash searching in a safe, enclosed environment), challenging scent puzzles specifically designed for each dog as an individual and something to hunt for and obtain that the dog does not need to learn to like through conditioning. Unique, tasty food, favourite toys – or in the case of my boy, Quinn, his pet rock!
It is this freedom to behave, unrestricted by physical or psychological control from humans and the game of hunting and utilising such natural behaviour that benefits the dog’s general wellbeing in a way that often seems nothing short of a miracle.
Over the past eight or so years I have focused on how to modify the basic “chicken in a box” game, the foundation of the K9 Nose Work® methodology that I so love, into specific set ups and processes for particular behavioural issues and areas of emotional weakness in dogs . Many of these set ups focus on the type of effort the dog has to go to at the end of the search to actually access the food it was searching for. We have begun to affectionally refer to these as “getting games.
Below you will find some examples of getting games that you can set up for your own dogs at home or add to your classes. Clicking here will take you to a paper I originally wrote for the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Australia based on a workshop I gave for them titled “Seeking Therapy: What is so therapeutic about Nose Work?”