Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sports For Reactive & Disabled Dogs!?

Don't Worry, You Can Be Nosey

Finding classes, training, and doing sports with a dog that is disabled, or a dog that is reactive to movement, other dogs, or people can be a real challenge.  This is a problem I have faced over the past two years with Chico.  But, I have found an activity that is highly rewarding and fun for reactive and disabled dogs.   K9 Nose Work®, is catching on in many communities across the country. This sport is perfect for reactive/fearful and shy dogs.


Making Good Use Of That Nosey Dog!

I can't tell you how many times I've been out, or walking, with my dogs and they get a whiff of something wonderful.  In turn they nearly rip my arm out of it's socket as I try to put the breaks on.  We often forget our dogs where bred to hunt and search naturally.  Overtime, we tend to forget about their talents or get annoyed by it. K9 Nose Work® is a sport designed to develop your dogs natural abilities to scent by searching for your dogs favorite rewards whether it's toys or food.  One of the coolest things about this sport is that one dog works at a time.  Reactive dogs and their "owners"  (that phrase never sits well with me, considering Chico and Rue TOTALLY own me) don't have to be stressed about these encounters.  Dogs are crated while other dogs/handlers are working. The dogs must be crate outside the search area. Some people crate their dogs in the car away from all the activity together (if the weather allows.)  The primary goal of K9 Nose Work® is to have fun.  The other goals are for the dogs to be allowed to be dogs, to play games, and hunt!  Is it really that easy?

About a month ago I was approached by a few friends that had taken a K9 Nose Work® workshop with their reactive dogs.  They loved the sport instantly and asked if I wanted to start working Chico.  At the time I knew very little about Nose work but said we would love to try it.  When starting Nose work you make the game very simple so dogs can be successful.  Several boxes on the floor of our search area, one box designated as the "food box".  Once the dog detects the scent (food in the case) the handler will reinforce the find by putting more treats in the box.  The box is then taken away to be placed for the next search.   

 Bourbon sniffing for the find 

Bourbon on the hunt                        Vito made the find

Our group determined that we would crate our dogs in the cars as our working space is limited.   Since we working in a small enclosed area we worked our dogs off leash. My friends worked their dogs first so I could watch and learn the game.  When it was Chico's turn I determined that I wanted to set his food box since he had recently had been acting very anxious at the club we meet at.  It's very fun and very easy.  In fact at some points you can't help but smile because the dogs are having so much fun!  Chico found the food very fast and has been progressing nicely with expanding the search area.  It's very interesting to watch different breads of dogs scent, they each search a different way.  Some dogs prefer their noses to be in the air, some to ground.  Chico keeps his head low to scent.  The dogs are just completely excited and focused on the find that the dogs don't seem concerned about people moving around the search area. 

K9 Nose work is broken down in classes:

Intro to Nose Work: This class focuses on teaching you how to encourage and develop your dog's scenting abilities.

Intro to Odor: This class advances the dog's scent discrimination skills learned in Intro to Nose Work.  In addition dogs are taught to identify a natural essential oil.

Advanced Nose Work: This class is designed for more experienced teams.  This class will expand the handler's and the dog's understanding of the target odors and concepts.  Learning is geared towards tactics, advanced handling and off leash work.  Teams are taught to navigate more intricate training scenarios.

Competition Nose Work:  Check out The National Association of Canine Scent Work  National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW) web page to learn about Nose work trials!

Chico catching a whiff


Can Your Dog Be Nosey Too?

Probably!  According the K9 Nose Work® website dogs must be able to handle confident outside the work area or in a vehicle away from their owners.  Dogs with any"aggressive" behavior towards people are not permitted.  The National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW) says that all breads (including mixes) and dogs with disabilities are permitted to play this sport!  The NACSW has had dogs in wheelchairs win titles, how cool is that?

Check out K9 Nose Work® website to look for instructors and workshops in your area.  You and your dog will love it!


  1. I am really interested in Nose Work, and I must find the time to read the site and look at training my girl to do something similar. Then we can assess if this sport may be something of interest to Australians.

    We do tracking, already, but tracking is physically strenous and a time consuming sport. It'll be good for the oldies (dogs and people!) to use their nose in a less strenuous setting.

  2. Hi Tegan,

    I think you and your girl will really enjoy the sport. I agree, it’s perfect for people and dogs of all ages. The concepts of scenting are fairly simple, training is fun. It’s something you can practice at home in different rooms or outside your home. Hopefully Australians will have a “nosey” movement too. It’s truly a blast!