Of course everyone knows dogs have a great sense of smell but did you know that their extremely powerful olfactory senses are able to recognize very diluted quantities of molecules? Equivalent to a dog finding two grains of sand that smell differently, on a beach that is 500 feet long, 150 feet wide and 40 inches deep! However, dogs do not have to depend on their sense of smell as they also have other great senses including sight and hearing. Therefore, when a dog hunts they prioritize their senses- seeking out the easier and cheapest way to get their next meal. They will use sight first, sound second and smell last. When shifting to scent- they will first sniff the wind and if that does not yield results they will sniff the ground for tracks. The purpose of this is to reserve energy. Therefore, to insure your dog uses their nose to solve the problem, all visual and sounds clues must be eliminated.
Why should you train your dog’s nose?
It is a good outlet for their natural ability, provides canine enrichment, and has other beneficial side effects. Physical exercise is usually our first choice when we are trying to tire out our dog but another great option is mental activities. These activities, also known as canine enrichment activities, consume a lot of the dog’s concentration, and considering dog’s reserve sniffing their “prey” until last, nosework is one of the most energy consuming tasks your dog can perform. Additionally, nosework is a calm activity and like other canine enrichment activities, improves problem solving skills.
Nosework has also been connected to better relations between owners and their dogs with improved cooperation and performance in other fields (eg. obedience). It enhances the trust bond between owner and dog by switching the role of leader and follower within the duo since the human must trust the dog to follow the scent, when often the dog depends on the human. Lastly, training your dog to find things is not only fun for them but can be beneficial to you and others- as dogs that excel in nosework can find lost items, people, and help with tracking and scent detection for drugs, bombs or even allergens.
Interested in working your dog's nose? Any dog is welcome to attend our Scentwork 101 course even if it seems they have no sense of smell- they may surprise you! Our first course will begin September 5th for more information refer to our training page.