Here's a great article on nose work:
The below are sections that I've pulled from the above article. I've pulled these specifically because I feel they speak to why nose work is such a powerful game for a dog.
Do give your dog the power to choose - Many dogs have little opportunity to make independent decisions in the presence of a human in their daily lives. Typically, they are told when they eat, when they pee, when they should sit, lay down, be quiet, stay off the couch, and when they should keep walking instead of stopping to sniff the roses (or the poo... which - if you believe Outkast - is what roses really smell like). Because dogs are dogs, they adapt pretty well to being told when, where, how, and what to do. In many dog activities and sports, the human knows what the goal looks like (running an agility course correctly, performing obedience commands properly, etc.), but in nose work the goal (the target odor source) is hidden from the human and nothing can be done to find it on your own - you are at the mercy of your dog. If you have a plan to direct or control your dog, it may not go very well. Your dog will probably be more than happy to comply with you in your human-driven search, but success will be elusive or fleeting.
Allowing your dog to be independent and make choices is key to success in nose work. When your dog hunts on his terms, driven by his own desire, and working independently of you, this is a scenario you can feel confident about, and a path to long-term success.
From day one of your dog's introduction to nose work, your goal should be to step back and watch. Let him make choices, let him discover things on his own, and watch him begin to confidently desire the hunt.
Do keep it simple and take it slow - One of the many great features of starting a dog on primary reward (food) is that it eliminates the need for expert timing, and it promotes independence right away, and it is pretty difficult to screw things up. Still, you want to keep it simple and take it slow. Dogs don't need to search a warehouse or a football field, they don't need to scale office furniture or climb ladders to find their food reward. They do need puzzles and challenges, but not what we would consider visually challenging, what they would consider an olfactory challenge or a challenge to their ability to focus. In many cases, just a small change in environment creates the challenge the dog needs.
So yes, Nose Work is a sport and there's lots to do within the sport of Nose Work. However, none of that is a requirement to participate in Nose Work. Just doing the box work at home will be a load of fun for your dog. Box work is one of the foundations in Nose Work and the foundations give your dog choice, allows them to move at their pace, rewarding positive choices & building confidence while working. The foundations of Nose Work enhance a lot of the work I do with my personal dogs & foster dogs which is why I'm such and fan of Nose Work. A dog can be fearful, reactive, have sensitivities and that's perfectly fine to bring to Nose Work. A dog can be young or old and that too makes no difference (as you will soon see via Torii). A dog can be under confident (like Soos) or psychologically sturdy (like Seven) and have lots of fun!
A number of New Rattitude dogs that have passed though our house have experienced Nose Work. Here's a glimpse of each of those dogs - talk about a walk down memory lane!
Check out Gramercy! This sweet fella was the longest foster dog in our care - 5 months. Once he came into foster care, we found out that he needed spine surgery. Due to Gramercy's spine issue his physical exercise was extremely limited so, I introduced him to Nose Work and he loved this game!
|Gramercy adopted May 2013|
Foster boy Soos takes a try with Nose Work. He was a pretty under socialized little guy and had a good time working the boxes.
|Soos adopted January 2014|
Sweet Royal struggled indoors - he was very sensitive to indoor noise and movements. Royal did well when we started a Nose Work class. This sweet boy was adopted shortly after starting class and he's done well in his adoptive home.
|Royal adopted May 2014|
The lovely Torii came to us with a unknown seizure disorder but, that sure didn't slow her down! Foster gal Torii rocked Nose Work and at age 12 she proves that older dogs are amazing at this game!
Corwin was a lucky boy because his dad started Nose Work with him! Corwin was a fearful/under confident boy when he was in foster care with us. He's become a new dog thanks to Nose Work and all the work his dad has done with him! I'm lucky to frequently see Corwin as he and his dad are in the same Nose Work classes as us.
Here's Corwin & his dad at our intro to Nose Work class last fall. He's working boxes and doing great!
|Corwin adopted December 2012|
|Corwin and his dad doing a vehicle search|
Wonder how working boxes gets a dog to vehicles? Well, when one starts with Nose Work it's all box work. Then as the team (dog and human) progress, target odor is introduced. The target odor is hidden and its one of three natural essential oils - birch, anise or clove.
The target odor is often hidden in small tins/tubs as well as lots of other small "containers". The container is then hidden and the dog searches and "alerts" his/her handler. So, you move from open boxes with primary (food) to target odor hidden in the tubs/tun in all kinds of places. The odor is then hidden on based on the elements of Nose Work of which there are four elements: containers, exteriors, vehicles and interiors.
Corwin, Catty and D'light have been doing Nose Work in a class setting with Erica Wells for over a year and all three dogs work the target odor. Erica teaches Nose Work in South Seattle, Ballard and Lynnwood.
If one opts take up the sport of Nose Work there are four separate elements, each with their unique challenges for the team.
|Alert means "here it is human!"|
|Catty says "Alert" and she's getting paid with food for finding the target odor|
|Which on is it?|
The two video's are called blind hides. We don't know which container has the target odor in it. We have to work the containers and I have to trust my dog when she/he alert on the odor.
Catty searching in class
D'light and at a Sniff-n-go which is basically a fun match
Here's Catty and I at our Nose Work 1 trial. All blind hides and we have to work as a team to locate the target odor:
|Start line - she's well aware of what we are doing and wants to get searching!|
|There were 25 boxes - they all look the same|
|Catty was pulling to get into to room - she wanted to get to that odor ASAP!|
|Off she goes!|
|This was a large room but, she immediately followed the odor|
|Catching the odor off the air purifier|
|working back to the source of odor|
|She knows she close|
|Why on earth I bend down who knows! It's not like I could see the odor!|
Here's the link to how Catty and I did at our NW 1 trial
So as you can see, Nose Work offers a lot of enrichment and fun for your dog. As for the human, I belive that Nose Work allows us catch a small glimpse into the dog's world while watching them blossom in their unique search mode. Both Catty and D'light have had positive behavioral changes since starting Nose Work and we are more emotionally connected because of our team work. I'm constantly learning more about my dogs (and dogs in general) because of Nose Work and I love it! If anyone is interested in locating a Nose Work class please feel free to contact me and I'm happy to help locate a class. There are a lot of Nose Work instructors throughout the United States so, there may be one close to you!