Just a little while back, I wrote a blog piece with some ideas on how you can make your dog useful in and around the house. Over the last few months, my three children have been on a roll of getting our dogs to help in different ways. It’s truly been a fun and joyous journey of many new and fresh ideas and the kids’ creativity is very inspiring! They always seem to come up with new ideas about what the dogs might be able to carry and deliver and how, and to whom.
It’s very simple stuff, it’s not difficult to develop once you have the basis for play and retrieving – but that’s really where it needs to start: with a dog who feels safe and good about picking things up. Sometimes we mess this part up right at the beginning with a puppy – being so very concerned about “how do I teach my puppy not to chew on shoes? and how do I teach my puppy what “NO” means? as in: “don’t touch – that’s mine!”
Maybe that’s the wrong question to ask.
Maybe the question to ask would be something like: “How do I manage my shoes and my valued items; how do I keep them safely away from my puppy so that I can create an environment where Everything my puppy picks up is OK to pick up, because I want to ENCOURAGE a lot of picking up, carrying and bringing to me?”
Sometimes it’s just the question that needs a bit of tweaking.
So, we’ve played around a lot with getting the dogs to carry this, that and the other. The kids specialize in sending little surprises with the dogs. Today when I hear someone happily encourage “Take this to mommy!” I simply cannot predict what will arrive at my feet..It’s amazing how many things they have discovered that can be sent back and forth between family members using a dog’s happy cooperation?!
Another thing, besides retrieve that I have played around with a ton over the last 12 months or more, in both private one-on-one training sessions, as well as in classes and at home – is working on Find it! – games…different ways to challenge the dog’s amazing scenting ability.
This concept will be taken further in this fall’s classes as I continue to see how much joy it brings both handlers and dogs to play and master these games.
The process is very simple to start with food, and then we can quite quickly go from food, to a toy or really almost any other object…and then the sky’s the limit! This summer, after the CSI Course that Wags unlimited hosted, we’ve played around a bit with cadaver scent – but you can work with any scent that tickles your fancy! Vanilla, Anise, Wintergreen, Pine…the difference is ultimately only in what you’d like to use the Nose Work for.
Dogs are used in law enforcement, at border crossings, for detection work, to locate missing items and people. We’ve read and heard about hotels hiring dogs to sniff out bed bugs! They can be used to detect disease and cancer. They find drugs, they find weapons. They find tennis balls 🙂 The list goes on and on – it seems we’ve only barely started to scratch the surface of how to use our dog’s noses! It’s fascinating and fun. It’s actually quite easy to teach and get going. But best of all , I think: is the PURE JOY I see in dog’s and people’s faces when the teams “get it”. Dogs are straining at their leashes to get going on the scent work! People are smiling – feeling GREAT about their brilliant dogs.
I think it just can’t get much better than that – it’s yet another way of really connecting people with their dogs – and to me, that’s what the training process is really all about. Exploring and mastering things beyond “the sits and the downs” that we can share as a truly enjoyable activity – and making it somehow matter in everyday life.
How about going the next step from Nose Work to finding and retrieving some valuable item of yours? or What if your dear friend lost her keys or ring in the grass? Wouldn’t it be amazingly cool to be able to feel confident and say “My dog will find those!”
That’s the goal and intent for our Nose Work and Fun Games classes this fall and winter. We will develop both of those skills (finding and separately also picking up) and start to look for ways to really make our dogs useful around the house! I hope you’ll join on this fun journey.
The fall class schedule is being created as we speak and should be up shortly. A newsletter will be sent out with all the details very soon. If you aren’t a subscriber (yet) – you can change that by going to this link to add yourself!
The photos that accompany this post are from one of our Drop-in classes this summer where we snuck in some fun Scent Games. I was happy to have at least my phone with me to be able to snap a few momentos of this Amazingly Fun activity! The dogs here had only tried these games once or twice but all showed great enthusiasm for these fun opportunities to use their noses.
You can see it: they’re all intent on the boxes: There’s something there somewhere in one of them. Where is it? I’m gonna Find it!
It’s simple, will be very useful and So much Fun – so let’s do it! Let’s work on some Scent Games this fall and winter?!!