K9 Nose Work

Scruffy 1 vehicleK9 NOSE WORK® is the fastest growing sport in the United States. It is designed to develop your dog’s natural scenting abilities by using their desire to hunt and find scent and then be reinforced with things they love, like toys and food. I like to tell my students “K9 Nose Work® teaches your dogs to use their noses for good instead of evil!”

The sport was originated by Ron Gaunt, Amy Herot, CPDT-KA and Jill Marie O’Brien, CPDT-KA. Between the three of them they have 7+ decades of experience in training and handling detection dogs.

They wanted to develop a sport that all dogs could learn and/or compete in without any of the restrictions that some national dog organizations impose. So mixed breed dogs, and even dogs with reactivity issues, or fearful dogs, can all learn to play the game.

The training room, and trials if you decide to go that route, are very well-managed so that no dogs have to interact with or even look at another dog if you don’t want them to.

From the moment I heard about K9 Nose Work® several years ago, I knew I wanted to be an instructor. I like dog sports, and have always been particularly fond of scent work, such as tracking. Now there’s a scent work sport that I can do with my dogs and not have to worry about getting ticks!! Woo hoo! I’m all in! All kidding aside, I knew from the start that this sport would be important for dogs in many ways. And that has certainly proven to be true. I love the benefits for all the dogs who do Nose Work, but especially dogs with fear and/or anxiety issues. I’ve seen many dogs work through some intense environmental fears with Nose Work.

Its many benefits include:

  • Fosters creative problem solving skills.
  • Builds confidence. You’d be surprised how many dogs are afraid of boxes at first. By the end of the session, they are plowing through them looking for scent.
  • Most dog reactive dogs are allowed to participate in this sport. This gives them an outlet to be near other dogs without having to look at other dogs. Frequently by the end of the session, many reactive dogs can now look at the other dogs in class without barking.
  • It burns up mental, physical and olfactory energy.
  • Obedience is “left at the door”. It’s all about hunting for and finding scent in K9 Nose Work®.
  • Builds a wonderful bond between you and your dog and teaches you how to read your dog better.
  • It’s just plain fun for your dog.

Another great aspect of K9 Nose Work® is that you can and should always reinforce your dog for every hide she finds. So even in competition, you may use food or toy reinforcements.

Competition is not necessary in any way but is available to those who love the thrill of competition. There are several levels of titles available, NW1, NW2 and NW3, Elite, Elite 1, Elite 2, Elite 3, Elite Champion. Levels trials are also available and more titling opportunties and games are in the works. By the time you and your dog are ready for competition, your dog will be hunting not just for food or toy scent, but for odor.

There are 3 target odors we train for–birch, anise and clove. Your dog must be proficient in all three odors before starting to compete. At the first level of competition, NW1, your dog will be searching for and finding only one scent–birch. At the second level, NW2, each search area may include birch and/or anise. And in NW3, all three odors, birch, anise and clove will be used.

One of our mottos is “leave obedience at the door.” When your dog comes to training, she gets to rediscover her inner dog and just be herself, sniffing and finding scent–just what she was meant to do with that fabulous nose she has. Dogs love Nose Work! Share the joy of K9 Nose Work with your dog.

Here are a couple websites with more information about K9 Nose Work®. The National Association of Canine Scent Work is the only official sanctioning and organizing body for the sport of K9 Nose Work®.  At http://www.k9nosework.com/, you can purchase supplies and find where there will be a seminar close to your location.

Check out some videos of K9 Nose Work, featuring Cassie and some of my students’ dogs.