An introduction to K9 Nose Work by Robyn Mayle

This is a guest post by Robyn Mayle from Nose A Lot, who teaches classes on Nose Work®, a fast-growing dog sport based on scent detection work.

Just in case you hadn’t noticed…dogs love to ‘sniff’. We will enter a new place and look around, but our four legged friends rely on their sense of smell to interpret their world. Their olfactory lobe is 40 times larger than that of a human. They are 1,000,000 to 100,000,000 times more sensitive to smell than humans (depending on breed traits) and they can detect a scent that is one part per trillion (1:1,000,000,000,000).

Depending on conditions, they are able to detect scent from over 800 metres away or submerged in deep water. Through nosework, we empower the dog’s greatest tool as a part of who they are. Nosework is fun for dogs! Dogs love nosework!

While many sports exclude the more sensitive canine, K9 Nose Work® accommodates canines with disabilities or behavior problems. Properly conducted sessions ensure the dogs do not come in sight of one another, making it an activity that most canines can participate in safely. It is an activity that provides an outlet for the dog’s energy and natural drive.

What is K9 Nose Work®? K9Nosework® is a canine activity created to copy the activities of the professional detection dog. The handler must ‘read’ their dog and raise an ‘alert’ when their dog has found a hidden target odor. Often the dog must ignore distractors such as food or toys in the process. On finding the odor, they dog is rewarded with food or a toy, making it a very positively trained and reinforced activity. Various types of searches, including a container or box search, a vehicle search and an exterior or interior search, form the components of K9 Nose Work®, while one dog and one handler form a team.

Through K9 NoseWork®, many companion animals have discovered the various therapeutic advantages, and many owners have found an activity through which they can socialize, knowing all dogs are being enriched in a safe and enjoyable way. As a sport, K9 Nose Work® is in it’s infancy, with trials becoming more frequent for every team that chooses to compete, but competition is not necessary for nose work to be fun and enriching for both, handler and dog.

K9 Nose Work® can be practised anywhere, from a room in your house, to a local park or shopping centre, requiring very little equipment to be transported or packed up. Furthermore, it requires little in the way of handler skills beyond being an astute observer. Our job is watching, reading, observing and respecting the dog’s expertise and ability. For those wanting more of a challenge, the theory of scent dispersion is fascinating but regardless of how much or how little we know, this is one sport in which we must learn to put our trust in the ability of our four legged friend.

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