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Introducing your dog to Scentwork

Your dog uses his nose to interpret the world around him. There’s nothing he enjoys more than sniffing and searching. Why not harness his talent and have fun at the same time?

This video explains just how sophisticated a dog’s nose really is.

Video courtesy of TED Ed

What is scentwork?

Scentwork is all about teaching your dog to find specific objects. You may have seen the police and security services asking dogs to help find explosives, drugs or missing people.

Any dog can enjoy scentwork. It doesn’t have to be a career choice for them, and they don’t need to be specially bred. It’s a healthy hobby that allows them to behave the way nature intended.

Scentwork for puppies: Scentwork plays an important part of a puppy’s socialisation. Not only does he learn how to focus and listen to his handler, he’s continually finding out about the world around him and growing in confidence

Adolescent dogs: Like most adolescents, dogs need to learn how to manage their vast levels of energy without getting themselves into trouble. Scentwork gives them the mental stimulation they need to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Rescue dogs: We don’t always know what experiences and training a rescue dog has had. And so training is about looking forwards not backwards. Scentwork sets a dog up to succeed. He builds confidence and trust in the owner who is providing such a great pastime for him.

Shy dogs: Help your shy dog to feel more secure by teaching him to focus on his rather special talent.

Older dogs: Just because he moves a bit slower and sleeps a bit more than he used to, it doesn’t mean that your dog doesn’t want to do anything at all. Scentwork can be tailored to the dogs physical ability. So stiff joints and wonky bits won’t stop him using his nose and his brain.

How to start your dog with scentwork

To really find out what your dog is capable of doing with his nose, I thoroughly recommend coming along to one of our scentwork workshops in either Ewell or Epsom. But there are some simple games that you can play at home.

The Which Hand Game

The Which Hand Game is also a good way to reinforce impulse control

  1. Ask your dog to focus on you and let him see you put a treat in one of your hands.
  2. Close both of your fists and put your hands out towards your dog
  3. Ask him “which hand?” and let him choose. He’ll probably nose at your fist. If he chews or paws you, take your hands away…if he wants to play he must be polite!
  4. If your dog chooses the correct hand, use a marker word (I use “good”), open up your hand and give him the treat.
  5. Wrong choice? Don’t scold him, just open both of your hands to show him the treat (but don’t let him eat it!), then try the game again. If he keeps stuggling to use his nose instead of his eyes, a differently scented treat might help

The find it game

This is a favourite game to play with puppies but adult dogs love it too. Find a low box that the pup can easily get his head into (a clean cat litter tray or a shallow cardboard box). Scrunch up lots of sheets of newspaper and fill the box with paper balls.  Now let your puppy see you bury half a dozen treats in amongst the paper balls. To help him with impulse control you could ask him to “sit” while he watches you.

Ask your puppy to “seek” or “find it” and encourage him to rummage about with his nose to get the treats.

When he reaches expert level, you can make the game more challenging. Ask him to sit and stay, or even wait out of sight while you hide treats over a wider area. It’s a great exercise for impulse control and you’ll be amazed at how clever he is.

Building your dog’s skills set

Now that you know how brilliant your dog is, you can begin to see his full potential. Our Scentwork classes will help you to develop his talent.

CK9 are Scentwork UK trainers and judges. Our classes are designed to be fun, whilst also being extremely mentally tiring for your dogs!  Scentwork UK has different levels.  You start at Level 1 and by the end of two six week blocks, you should be ready to take your Level 1 trial and even enter competitions should you choose to.

More about Scentwork classes in Surrey

How to build a better relationship with your dog