Viva and I have been attending a weekly Nose Work class and we just completed the first 6 week class. We made a lot of progress and we are signed up for another 6 weeks which is exciting for us!
Here is a wonderful link that talks about Why Nosework Works
Until I started doing Nose Work with D'light and Catty, I hadn't given a whole lot of thought to environment and how it impacts dogs. As I started thinking about this, hearing it being talked about by Nose Work instructors and observing how dog behave, I realized that the environment is everything. It has a massive impact on the dog and what the dog can and cannot do. Meaning if the environment is too overwhelming they can't think and often revert to behaviors that have helped them to manage the environment in the past. All dog behave differently and that behavior can change depending on the environment. Dogs that have had a good amount of positive and varied environmental exposure can often roll with environmental changes. But for those who have not had varied and positive environmental exposure - they can outwardly react and then others retreat inward. This is why watching dogs body language is so important and paying attention to what is stressful to your dog. It's our job to manage the environment the best we can to set the dog up for success which hopefully will create and build a new and positive emotional response.
Our Nose Work instructor Kathy Weaver has done a really, really nice job of setting up the environment, setting Viva up for success within the environment. This is stressful for Viva and we have to pay close attention to managing her stress level. We do not want to flood Viva, we want to help her move through the stress while still being able to think (we want to keep her under threshold). The beauty of Nose Work is that if it things are set up to support the dog then the dog begins to have positive responses and finds out that this is a pretty fun game while creating an emotional positive response to the game.
Viva is at the very early stages of Nose Work - use your nose to find the food. No pressure from the human. All we are doing right now is to see if Viva will search for the food in the area. There's lots of strange stuff in the area which adds more environmental pressure but, what is more stressful for Viva is the smell of dogs that have been in the area. This is a dog training facility so lots of dogs have been in the facility. When we are working there are no other dogs in the building but, Viva is very attuned to the smell of dogs so she's well aware dogs have been here.
Here was my link talking about our first Nose Work class Viva has started Nose Work class
Below is class two. As you can see, the "walls" are covered with sheets. This was because Viva can be reactive to people in environments where she doesn't feel safe. While Nose Work is a fun game for a lot of dogs for Viva being in this new controlled environment is a challenge for her.
There is also a lot of high value food out for Viva to locate but, you can see that Viva has a lot of interest in sniffing the floor and environment - no doubt dog smell. For Viva checking out the environment was more important than eating the high value food. It's not that Viva is dumb or can't smell the food. It's that the food is not as important as what else is in the environment.
You can see that as the environment feels more secure for Viva, she then begins searching, locating and eating the food.
It's pretty amazing how quickly Viva progresses once the environment feels safe enough to search. This is the same class, round two. She gets right searching and doesn't do a whole of securing the environment. Notice that the visual barrier have been opened up just a little bit.
Round 3 and Kathy sets Viva up for quick success! You will see a cluster of containers, each having food in them for Viva to locate and eat.
Did you notice how quiet it was as Viva was searching? That's on purpose. Again this is all about the dog and that means let them just search. No jabbering or directing by the human.
This may appear boring for the human and to a certain extent it can be. But again, this isn't about the human. It's about the dog who is working and the dog is really working hard even if they feel pretty comfortable in the environment. You have to build a solid foundation for the dog if you want to eventually work towards having them search for odor. My goal with Viva is not to have her search for odor. My goal is environmental exposure and creating a different emotional response to the environment. So with any class that you do with your dog, think about what your goals are and how you can help your dog be successful.
Sweet Viva waiting for Kathy to set up the search area
Our last search for this class and it was a great one! Kathy sets up another cluster of food loaded containers in front of the section of the wall where the sheets have been moved.
Here we are in class number three - still in the small area and slowing removing the visual barriers. Viva is not longer worried about Kathy being in the search area which is great progress.
You can see that Viva is more relaxed with the environment and because she more relaxed she can play the game of searching for the food!
Way to go Viva and thank you to our Nose Work instructor Kathy Weaver who really thoughtfully set Viva up for success. I cannot stress how important Kathy's food placement and set of the environment was and is for Viva. Kathy is excellent at adjusting the environment for each dog so that each dog is successful. It's wonderful and with each class we can see the changes in Viva and how she experiences everything around her. All of this is exactly why I wanted to start Viva in a Nose Work class!
Stay tuned to see how Viva does when we move to a different area of the training facility. As you would expect, it was done thoughtfully by Kathy and we have lots of success!