Scent work update!

To recap, this is my second try at taking the novice scent work class. The class I'm taking asks for all dogs to be crated when it's not their turn, and I couldn't deal with Maggie barking in the crate. I give my instructors a lot of credit, they emailed me to try to convince me that I was more upset about the barking than anyone else, but given Maggie's history it just wasn't going to work for us. Willow is taking scent work this time.

We just finished our 3rd class, and tonight we introduced scent! You guys, this is so fun. At first I was kind of befuddled. We're just going around eating treats out of boxes. And Willow wasn't as excited about eating treats out of boxes as some of the dogs. It's always a little disappointing when you feel like all of the other dogs are getting it and yours isn't. But I was determined to just trust the process. If they were able to get the chihuahua (who I think might be a little developmentally delayed, but that's our secret) to be succesful at scentwork then Willow could do it. She's a furry little genius with a slightly not fabulous human leader. But I try really hard. 

ANYWAY, before we started with scent we warmed up with treats in boxes. I've been practicing with the girls twice a day. I felt like everyone should have an opportunity to play, even though only Willow is going to class. And she busted out of that crate and went to work hunting for treats like a pro. It's really exciting to see them figure out the game.

This week our homework consists of sniffing Birch and eating squeeze cheese. Squeeze cheese is not on the approved treat list, but it's approved for human consumption so I don't think anyone will die. Who am I kidding? Squeeze cheese is fabulous and the dogs have to share with me.

Also, I really like all of the tiny little containers used in this sport. I might have a shopping problem!

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  • Sounds fun.  I bet I'd be VERY good at scent work--I want a class like this for humans...with chocolate! 
    "Adina--GO!  Find the chocolate with almonds using just your nose!  Then eat it!"

    So at first they just eat stuff out of open boxes and then do they have to find a closed box with that thing?  

    • There are a ot of parts to scentwork, and I'm a little fuzzy on some of the details. But yes, I think novice containers are finding the scent in a closed cardboard box. As they progress in levels containers turn into things like suitcases and purses. 

      If I have it right, in AKC scentwork there is interiors, exteriors, containers, and buried. There is also handler discrimination and a detective class.

      Detective sounds impossible to me. There is an unknown number of hides between 5 and 10 and it's indoors and outdoors and there's no maximum height, so they can put the scent on the ceiling if they want to. I stewarded for handler discrimination, all the novice classes, and detective. They did the higher levels on the days I had to work, so I didn't get to see those. I think in some of the higher levels they search inside vehicles. 

      One interesting little factoid that we talked about last night. If you want to have a search and rescue dog they can't have ever done scentwork. I'm not sure that you can't have a dog who is cross trained to do both, because we have tracking dogs in our class and it's kind of the same thing - following people. But SAR won't let dogs do SAR if they've done scentwork. I'm not sure how many SAR doodles are out there, but just something that came up in conversation.

  • We had a member here, Gina, who is a pro at scent work, literally. She titled both her doodles, I think at least one is a nosework champion, and she not only teaches scent work, she teaches scent work instructors. Here's her DK page: Send her a friend request, she's wonderful. 
    Scent work is what SAR dogs and K9 narcotics/cadaver/ tracking dogs do after they retire, to stay active and busy, if I understood what Gina told me about that.  
    I tried scent work once with Jasper, at a Petsmart class, so it probably wasn't a fair trial, but it was awful. For one thing, it was done in a very small space, and there were no crates, so all the dogs are standing around crammed together in the aisle while one at a time takes a turn. It turns out that a fair number of the dogs who participate in scent work, at least at the lower levels, are dog reactive, because supposedly this is one dog sport they can participate in and not have to be too close to other dogs. But standing in an aisle for an extended period of time with a very outgoing friendly puppy while surrounded by not-friendly (to put it mildly) older dogs is not fun. trust me on that. After one Great Pyrenees snarled and snapped at Jasper, we left. 
    And while we could give it try in a better class, I just think there is way too much downtime for Jasper. He gets impatient waiting for his turn in a trick class with 3 other dogs, lol. 
    However, I'm glad you and Willow are enjoying it! 

    • I absolutely agree with you about the downtime. It's killer. Our class is an hour and a half and it's probably only her turn for about 10 minutes of that. That said, even though we're a work in progress I do think it's good for her to learn to relax in her crate (while I'm in the room. She's crated while I'm at work with no problem at all.) I've read a little bit about trainers who do extensive place training. I don't do that, but I don't think it hurts her at all to learn to be patient. There's a rally class that starts after our scentwork class ends. I almost wonder if we should take that too. Give us a chance to work out all the pent up energy from waiting for our turn.

      Another thing that I like about scentwork - is it one word or two words? I can't decide. Is that once both of us figure out what we're trying to accomplish it will be a game that we can take and play anywhere all by ourselves. There will be less waiting our turn at that point. I'm not sure about the trials though. There is a ton of waiting at a trial. At the place where I helped there was a lot of outdoor space where you could wander around and not be stuck in a little crating area all day, but it was still a long day. I was exhausted when I got home. I'm sure the dogs were exhausted too.

      It sounds like you went to a terrible class. I try to be really careful about the environment. I know one bad experience can really do a lot of damage. The ring gates fell on Rocket a long time ago, and he has never gotten over it. She says that he hates working there. 

      I think one of the things about scentwork is that those foundation classes are not the fun ones. The first class the advanced class was still working when we got there, and they had stuff set up outside and down the stairs and they all looked like they were having a lot of fun. I'm trying to be patient until we get to the good stuff. 

      • Most of the big time agility people do extensive place training with puppies. I agree that there is no harm in that.
        But I probably have less patience than Jasper does, lol. So there's that.

  • My FAV sport :)  The foundation classes can be a little boring to us, but it sparks the dogs hunt drive. The boxes give them expectaion of food so you can move those to all different venues and the dog knows he is expected to search.  You can try lot's of different areas and puzzles just using food to get our dogs to push past things that might be scary to them. If there is food, most likely the dog will push to find it.  Just started my new pup on it, and it is amazing how fast they learn at that young of age with no inhibitions. 

    Baci the pup barked and barked in the car and crate when we first started.  He now waits his turn quietly because he loves the fun.  We started out with NACSW orgination and will also do AKC.  Buddy was up to Elite 2 and Kona is working towards her Elite 3.  Baci passed his ORT and ready for NW1.  The biggest problem with the trials is the longer drives, at least for me, I am in NV.  You also meet some Awsome people in the parking lot.

    • So glad you responded, Gina. 

    • It is really neat to see them figure out the game. My instructor was saying that you can basically start scent work training at birth. And that dogs who have really strong backgrounds in obedience can have a harder time getting out there and searching on their own. Good thing we're not that great at obedience. 

      It's funny that you mention learning to take their turn. I have been taking turns with Willow and Katie (Maggie won't play - I've tried) and I can already tell that they are starting to understand going back to their crate so the other dog can play. Then they get another turn. 

      We're really novices, but I really think it's so need when I can see them catch the odor and look back to find it. This might be something that we're actually good at. I enjoy everything that we do, but when I watch some of the precision obedience I'm not sure we'll ever get there. I probably don't set my standards high enough.

      • It is so different from obedience.  Once they learn the searching for odor, it is all in their nose to tell us where the scent is. We just have to learn to read their body language and make sure we get them to all the places the scent might get trapped. 

        Buddy and Kona had gone through to Rally Excellent before we started Nosework.  It did take some time to break them of the heal and looking at me all the time for instruction and learn to hunt.  They got it though!  Baci is learning both at the same time, we use a harness for Nosework and a collar for Rally.  I have had no issues or confusion from him on what he should be doing in either sport. 

        You also have to remember that the dogs do get really tired after working to find the odor.  That is why they need downtime in between searches.  My dogs learn to rest in between searches on a trial day, and the older ones I have to wake up from mini naps :)  It is a great way to teach them to relax.  I can't wait to hear more of your training, we are in about the same place with Baci and yours.  Remeber, GOOD treats motivate!!!

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