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Why you should do nose work with your dog

Sandra Winfrey

Mar 1, 2024

Your dog was born to use his nose and sniff the word - learn why nose work is so beneficial and how you can incorporate it in your day and life!

What is scent and why is it so important for our dogs?

Have you ever stopped and just watched, appreciated your dog sniffing the air and ground, sniffing you and new people you meet when being out and about and wondered what is it that your dog smells and what information he gathers while doing it?

Scent is your dog’s main and most prolific sense and even considered their way of ‘seeing’ the world. Dogs have more than 100 million sensory receptor sites in their nasal cavity – humans have only 6 million. The area of the canine brain devoted to analyzing odors is about 40 times larger than the comparable part of the human brain.

 

Scent is a chemical in the air known as an odorant, which is picked up by the olfactory system’s odorant receptors and results in neurological chemical change. It affects different areas of the brain, triggering what we then interpret as scent or smell.

So, when our dogs sniff a specific object and take in its scent, it’s not the solid object they are scenting at all, it’s the chemical compounds that are within that object turning into gas. And since those chemical compounds change over time, dog can also smell or ‘see’ the past, for example if they smell a tire, they know where the car has been before it was parked.

 

Some amazing facts about scent and dogs

Dogs can smell a bitch in season 3-5 miles away and cadaver dogs have been known to detect the scent of a corpse buried as deep as 9 feet underground.

It also explains why many dogs are more distracted and listen ‘less good’ when you are outside, as there is much more information to take in than in your home where they know everything.

 
So why should you let your dog sniff and consider nose work?
  • Letting a dog sniff for 15 minutes intensely will make them as tired as a 45 min walk! But with the added benefit that they are even happier and more relaxed as they got to use their instinct.

  • Sniffing lowers their heartrate and help to cope with stressful situations. Therefore, scent work is a great addition for reactive dogs.

  • Scent work boosts the mood and helps to overcome fear and makes it a wonderful tool to help timid and fearful dogs.

  • Scent games are a great alternative when it’s too cold or hot to walk your dog, or he or you are injured.

  • It is natural and a basic need for a happy and well-rounded dog!

 

How can you incorporate nose work into daily life?

Don’t be afraid that you now must start a sport with your dog to do nose work – even though he probably won’t mind and love you even more if you would…;) But basic nose work can be easily incorporated in your daily life and doesn’t need to be time consuming for you. Here are a few ideas:

  • Scatter some of their food when letting them out in the garden, and if you feed fresh, raw or canned food – use treats like pieces of carrots or berries.

  • Hide treats in the house and let them sniff them out.

  • Hide their favorite toys in the house for them to find.

  • Or even hide yourself in another room/ behind doors and call them to find you – they usually love those games once they understand the rules.

  • Snuffle mats are also a great addition to their entertainment box.

  • Take those ideas out on your walks for added fun together!

  • And of course… the next time you take your dog outside, go with them on a ‘sniffari’ – let them lead the way on a long leash and follow them where their nose leads you two!

 

But when you want to do nose work as a sport…

If you got a sniff how fun nose work can be for your dog and you, you might want to consider nose work and train your dog to higher standards or even compete.

  • If you have a Retriever, Pointing Breed, Spaniel or Hound - you can check out Field Events.

  • Try AKC Scent Work if they are great in finding treats and toys.

  • And if you have a small Terrier or Dachshund Earthdog Tests might be for you.

  • Barn Hunt and Tracking are great for any and even mixed breeds.


If you have a retriever and want to do fun gun dog training where you learn to work as a team and he get to use his inner instincts but you with don't need to go out and shoot/ handle prey - check out my fun hunting training for pet dogs!



I also teach Scent Work if you are interested in this.



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