Friday, March 22, 2013

Nose Work Fun with a senior Golden Retriever

I've been hooked on nose work ever since I attended a K9 Nose Work® seminar taught by Jill Marie O'Brien and Amy Herot at a dog trainer conference a few years ago.  What I love about nose work is that although the methods are based on professional detection training, it is easy to do and fun for the average pet dog and pet dog owner.  Nose work is also a great confidence-building activity for fearful and reactive dogs.

My dog is 11 years old and although he's a Golden Retriever, he doesn't fetch balls, play with other dogs or swim. Oh, and he has hip dysplasia too!  So he and I were quite excited when we discovered nose work.  Not only does he love it but he is actually pretty good at it...even though he is not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to general training.

Exterior search - Outside our home
4 food hides

The first video is from the early days when Luka was searching for food only.  We had already done the foundation exercises, using boxes in familiar environments.  You can tell he's very excited about hunting, especially for the stinky Plato salmon treats.

Exterior - Shopping center parking lot
4 birch hides

This next video below was shot more recently.  Because Luka had searched for his primary reward (food) for almost a year in various environments, it only took two weeks of pairing with the target odor of birch for him to transition to birch only.

People who aren't familiar with detection and nose work often ask if the dog is supposed to do a Sit to let the handler know he's found source.  Most handlers will tell you that the change in the dog's behavior is the true indication.  I can tell from Luka's behavior when he's in odor and at source, but in case you can't tell, his final response is a nose poke, and if the reward is delayed, a look back at me.  I haven't trained a formal alert like a Sit because some dogs (like Luka) will fake it and false alert if taught a behavior like Sit that doesn't happen naturally during the hunt.

Interior - Post office
3 birch hides

Here's another video taken around the same time as the above exterior video.  This one's off-leash, although even when we work on leash, I try to simulate an off-leash search in order to give him as much space as possible to problem solve.

Exterior - Park Bathroom
3 separate birch hides

This next video was taken at a beach park where the wind was howling onshore.  It is interesting to note that the wind is blowing onshore on either side of the building, but is blowing the other direction behind the building because of an eddy.  You can tell from our gushing comments that my husband and I are very proud of Luka!

1 birch hide with 3 poke containers

On this day, I wanted to do some really simple nose work using just 3 little poke containers.  I wanted to simulate the idea of a scent wheel, where the dog has to figure out which of the compartments the odor is in.

Interior - Our ohana apartment
3 birch hides
After several months of a nose poke alert and rewarding quickly at source, I decided to delay his reward a little and shape a Look alert, since sometimes his Nose Poke is not very obvious (looks like he's sniffing).

If you're interested in starting nose work with your dog, check out the classes I offer on Oahu:

Happy Sniffing!


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  3. Helpful artical.
    Thanks for a well written and informative post.
    Know Your Dogs! An Intro to the Golden Retriever