K9 Nose Work

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What Is K9 Nose Work

The National Association of Canine Scent Work is the sanctioning body and official organization of K9 Nose Work.  Nose work dog's nose sniffing the air - nose workcompetitions are very similar to tracking events in that scent is the key behavior for the dog to use.  In a nose work competition, various items with distinct odors are placed either in a building or outdoors, and the dog is instructed to locate those items.  There are four elements of exposure for nose work. They are: interior, exterior, vehicle, and container searches.  Because of the sensitive nose all dogs have, all dogs can participate in this sport, from the most enthusiastic working dog to your cherished family pet.

Training Your Dog For Nose Work

To compete in nose work takes months of training for you and your dog.  The training requires time but not a lot of expense.  There are workshops that are offered to assist with training your dog for nose work.  The concept behind training a dog for nose work is to introduce an item with an odor to your dog and hide it for your dog to find. The item should be something your dog loves – really loves! You are trying to build upon your dog’s urge to hunt. Many people begin nose work training by hiding this beloved item in a cardboard box and allowing the dog to find it. In the beginning you might even let the dog watch where the item is being hidden. Reward your dog with enthusiastic praise or a treat when the item is discovered.  As training progresses, put the hidden item further away and harder to find.  Mix it up by having several cardboard boxes and hiding the item in one.

The National Association of Canine Scent Work conducts an “Odor Recognition Test” prior to allowing the dog to participate in regular competition.  Membership is required in the NACSW.  To enter formal competition, it is essential to be familiar with the rules and regulations.  In a competition, your dog will have to deal with distractions, different environmental conditions, and more complex search areas.  If formal competition is not something you are looking to enter your dog into, there are smaller local competitions that you might be able to locate through various canine organizations.

Serving Your Community

Having a dog that is trained in nose work can also be rewarding in serving your community.  Search and rescue dogs are utilized frequently for missing or injured people.  These dogs have been instrumental in locating missing children or, as we all have seen, locating an escaped prisoner.  Cadaver-trained scent dogs have been specialized in their nose work training.

Dogs love to work at what they were bred to do.  And there is nothing better than making the work into a fun, competitive sport.  The only health risk involved with nose work might be over-rewarding your dog with treats causing weight gain.  Praise your dog often and reward the activity with a cherished toy instead.

Photo:  Courtesy of Grace via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

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