It’s Linda here behind the keyboard, back to tell you about Alfie’s very first K9 Nose Work Class. It all started about a month or so ago, when Alfie hurt his leg and we had to give up his agility classes. As you know, Alfie is an Entlebucher Mountain Dog with more energy than a small nuclear plant – and I needed to find a new activity for him where he could burn some energy, without the need for speed.
What is K9 Nose Work?
I remembered reading about a new dog sport called K9 Nose Work over at one of our favourite blogs ‘Something Wagging’ – and on the National Association of Canine Scent Work’s website I found Dominika Knossalla, a qualified trainer giving classes at a dog school within walking distance from our home.
Alfie loves using his nose to find hidden treats and toys – and we’ve been playing his favourite game ‘Find it’ for years. The K9 Nose work classes takes this fun game a little bit further though and although your dog starts with searching for food and toys, eventually you swap over to odours such as birch.
Once you’ve taught your dog to recognise and find an odour, you go for an Odour Recognition Test where your dog hopefully proves that he can recognise and find a specific odour. Our Blog Friend Emma from MY GBGV Life Blog is currently studying for her first ORT and you can read more about that on her blog here. Once the ORT is out of the way you can start competing and sign your dog up for trials.
Alfie’s First K9 Nose Work Class
Ahead of Alfie’s class I was told to bring lots of high value dog treats and his favourite toys. With a dog like Alfie, pretty much all food is high value – but I still brought some yummy cooked chicken breast and sliced hot dogs. And favourite toy – do I even need to mention its the ball?
Our trainer had already placed out some empty boxes on floor before we got there, and I think it might have been around five or so boxes all together. I can’t remember whether we hid the toy or the food in the first round, but either way our trainer suggested that we should keep training Alfie with both options given that he is so motivated by both.
Alfie’s K9 Nose Work Home Work Session Video
We started off easy, placing some food inside a box that would be easy for Alfie to find. I think he might have even seen us put it there. As soon as I saw Alfie stick his nose into the right box I quickly added some more treats to the box – giving him the impression that the box is totally pawsome!
Then, moving on with the game, we shuffled the boxes around so he wouldn’t know which box held the food and he had to ‘hunt’ to find it. Needless to say, Alfie loved looking for the food and searched the area tirelessly as we made the game more difficult by adding more boxes.
We turned some boxes upside down and on their sides. We placed the food ‘upwind’ and ‘down wind’ from the light breeze from the open windows and watched Alfie do his thing. From my point of view it was great to see my velcro dog work independently solving a problem – quite the opposite from Agility class where I would struggle to get him away from my feet.
Using a Toy
Hiding a toy followed pretty much the same formula as hiding the treats. The only real difference was that I could see Alfie’s body language completely change. All of a sudden there was a real spring in his step and he searched, or hunted with a sense of urgency. He really wanted to find that ball!
The reward of finding the ball inside a box was reinforced by a quick game of tug over the box (not easy!) and me throwing the ball inside the box for him to catch. Again, making that box the source of all good things. In the video you’ll see that I had to ask Alfie to wait indoors while I hid his ball when we were training at home – he wouldn’t take his eyes off it even for a second so I could hide it.
All in all, I think Alfie’s first class was a great success and I can’t wait to see Alfie’s hunting skills develop over the next couple of weeks!