Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Viva has started Nose Work class

Of course I think New Rattitude is a great rescue.  A big reason why I foster for New Rattitude is the support that is offered to foster parents. One of the many supports is that New Rattitude provides an annual training subsidy to help cover the cost of training classes for foster parents enrolling their dogs (either foster or personal dogs) in training classes using positive methods to modify behavior, develop manners, increases responsiveness and/or build confidence.

Last year I used the training subsidy with foster dog Seven and that class really turned things around for us and helped me to help Seven be an even more amazing dog!

Everyone knows I a huge fan of Nose Work and I figured this would be an great class for Viva. Why is it great?  First off, every dog works alone and there are no other dogs in the area.  For a reactive dog like Viva this is perfect.  Another reason is that Nose Work is a huge confidence boost for dogs.  They get to hunt for food and when first starting Nose Work, the fact that the human isn't asking them to do anything is amazing.  Nose Work also provides the opportunity for dogs to have controlled exposure to things in the environment. Best of all, if you have a good Nose Work instructor they will do everything they can to set your dog up for success.

All of this is exactly why I wanted to take a Nose Work class with Viva.  The next step was locating a setting where Viva would be successful and that worked with my busy schedule.  I'm very, very lucky to have some great Nose Work instructors in my area.  Catty and I train with Erica Wells and I adore Erica but, the class locations and times weren't optimal for us.  So, I contacted Kathy Weaver another Nose Work instructor who I think is great!

When I contacted Kathy I let her know that Viva is environmentally sensitive, dog reactive and can be people reactive.  If you have a fearful dog, it's very important that you advocate for you dog by explaining what your dog needs to be successful. It's also imperative to find an instructor/trainer who will listen to you. Also you want to find someone who has at the very least a basic understanding of fearful behavior in dogs.

Kathy was on board with us and off to class we went.  There are 4 dogs in our class and Kathy did a great job of preparing the environment for Viva.  There were sheets placed over the walls to create visual barriers and we were working over in a corner of the facility.  Kathy asked the other students to stand way back so Viva didn't have to see them.

The building has lots of dogs coming in and out (not when we were there) so that's a lot of dog smells.  Viva is one to amp up when she smells that a dog has been in the area so, she was on alert just coming into the facility.  She then did what I expected, she searched the working area making sure she was safe, not interested in eating the food that was out in the containers. Viva tends to get lock into her brain when this is securing her environment and she forgets what's around her. She forgot I was in the area with her and as she was making sure all was safe, my presence startled her and she started growling at me.  I said "Viva it's me" and that redirected her attention and she went to searching.  Her growling is a behavior that she gives when she's emotionally uncomfortable.  The growling is not about her being dominant.   She was pretty jazzed once she secured her environment and found the food in the open containers!

Here's Viva on her second search. She's doing great for a newbee!

We did a total of 4 searches and on the third search Kathy and I were in the search area - a change in the environment.  Viva saw Kathy when we came in and then Viva did her searching around and Kathy's presence startled Viva. Viva charged towards Kathy, growling and barking.  Viva stopped about 5 feet in front of Kathy and Kathy was not making eye contact with Viva and Viva then moved on. Again, a good reason why it's important to be clear and honest about your dog's current behaviors AND find someone who understands dog behavior. You also want someone who does not believe in using aversives with dogs and doesn't endorse or subscribe to the whole wrong alpha/dominance talk.  Many thanks to Kathy for her understanding Viva's behavior and saying she did great because she really did when you look at the whole picture.

Here was Viva during another search and you can see the sheet over the wall for a visual barrier.

"Finding these treats is awesome!"

It was a great class and I'm looking forward to the future classes as I'm sure Viva is going to really enjoy this game once she feels safe in the environment.

After class we found a park to explore!

"Lots of leaves on the ground"

Pretty Viva!

You don't need to go to a class to learn how to do Nose Work at home with your dog.  Here's some past posts fosters doing Nose Work in our house.  It's very simple, a lot of fun for the dog and a really, really good enrichment game.  Perfect for the fall and winter indoor days!

I found these and they were fun to watch! A throwback to 2014:

So collect some boxes, have high value food rewards and give your dog something fun to do!



  1. How exciting that Viva has started nose work! Looking forward to seeing how she progresses!

    1. It's really great for Viva and I think she will be a pro once she's comfortable in the environment.