There are so many good reasons to do scent work (often referred to as nose work) with your dog, it’s hard for me to pick just a few but I’ll try. I’ve only done a few sports other than scent work with my dogs. We participated in agility, rally, parkour and tricks. But there is something different about the sport of scent work besides the lack of injury sustained in agility by my dog and me.
The sports I’ve been involved in, from my perspective, the human directs and the dog follows, a dance to be sure but the human always leads. In scent work the lead trades off and in fact, the majority of time, the dog leads. Why do we care? Well, it depends on you, your dog and your relationship.
If I want to inspire a more even relationship with my dog rather than them waiting for me to lead or direct (go over the jump, sit and down now, spin, etc.) scent work offers that. My dog has to tell me where the special hide is hidden, they are directing me where to follow them. And once they have found it, they tell me through a system of communication that we have learned together. Observation on the human’s part is as important as the scenting ability of the canine. It’s a team effort.
Sure but isn’t all the other sports a team effort? Yes, they are. Here’s the difference, again as I see it, If I miss giving a jump cue to my dog and therefore we miss it, that’s on me because I was leading. In scent work, after I’ve given the cue to search, other than keeping my dog within the search area, the dog is independently following odor without any input from me. They are leading.
So that’s the basics.
But back to the premise of this post, why do it? I think since our dogs lead in this sport, we see a settling or grounding come about. They have this innate skill to find things with their nose, they know how to hunt. For the human side to appreciate this fantastic talent and reward them for it is icing on the cake and biscuit. Fun for the human and dog.
The results I see in my dogs and hear from clients and students about their dogs is a calmer, confident, more focused dog. If they are high energy and have problems settling; putting their nose to work gets them focused and on task. Sensitive dogs build confidence. And the dog human relationship gets stronger.
Why wouldn’t you do scent work?