Over three years ago, when we decided to add another dog to the family, I had big plans for our new Labrador retriever mix. Being a multiple pet family for us meant staying home more, and doing activities we could do together easily as much as possible. But when we added Luke to our family, I had it in my head that I wanted to do something more for our new dog. I wanted more training than our previous dogs had received, and possibly a sport. Agility was something I had always wanted to try.
Luke didn’t turn out to be the dog that was right for all of my plans. He is a dog who is fearful of strangers, and that only seemed to get worse as he got older. Then we found out at just about a year old that he had luxating patellas in both of his knees, and that jumping was not going to be an activity that would be good for him.
I put agility aside, even though we still try fun things at home like a tunnel and weave poles. I was so glad that nose works came on my radar (thanks to great blog friends Emma and her family) as a dog sport that was not just fun, but good for reactive dogs, especially to help build their confidence. We had figured out early on that Luke had a very good nose. We were sure he had some scent hound in him (though he is mostly Lab), but his DNA revealed that was dachshund, and not the beagle we thought!
No matter what his DNA said, we felt he had an amazing nose and since we’ve started nose works he has proven that to be true. Nose works turned out to be way more fun than I expected too, and I now also do it with our beagle Cricket. We may never compete, time will tell, but as time has gone on I also wondered if it was truly building Luke’s confidence or not.
I got my answer recently. When our weather finally turned nicer, and “snow mountain” melted off the patio, we were able to start doing some searches with him outside again. When we do searches with multiple closed boxes, it is recommended to “age” the birch scent by setting it up in the box and leaving it for ½ hour – an hour, so the scent really permeates the box and the area around it.
I had a set up aging when our contractor showed up at our door. Luke is OK with him at a distance but he came into the front entryway (there’s a door there so he’s still separated) before I could get Luke down to the bedroom, so that got Luke pretty wound up. We talked for a few minutes once I got Luke settled in that room. As if that wasn’t enough to ruin what focus Luke might have, as we headed outside to do the search, I noticed the town was grading our dirt road with big machinery. I’ve written before (Luke’s Progress Report) about how that sometimes scares Luke, though he has gotten better.
I figured the combination of those two things was going to be too much for him. I decided we’d try anyway, since I had the setup ready. Luke did great! Only once did he start to look towards the road and head that way with worry, but he quickly came back to do his searches. We did a few and he aced each and every one. Since it was our first time back outside for searches this year, I didn’t take any photos that time.
I think nose works is helping him to gain his confidence, and some of the other training we’re doing to keep him calm when strangers come by is probably helping as well. You certainly need a combination of many things with a fearful dog.
By the way, we also recently did Cricket’s first outside searches on the patio, and she did great too! The funny thing is, that day Luke was kind of distracted and didn’t do well (I don’t know why that day, but he was just in a mood and not focusing.) I was feeling disappointed about Luke, but Cricket’s success quickly cheered me up!
After her round, I brought Luke back out to do her easier searches, just so we could end on a good note with him. He did better then.
He will probably still have his off days, but I feel like we are really headed in the right direction with nose works. I believe dog sports, or trick training, whatever a certain dog enjoys (and Luke enjoys both), is a great way to help a shy dog like Luke build the confidence he needs.
We are pleased to be co-hosting the Positive Pet Training blog hop with Tenacious Little Terrier and Travels with Barley. Pet bloggers, please join us in this hop by posting your positive pet training stories. The hop remains open through Sunday. Our theme this month is “Dog Sports”. Tell us about your dog sports and how they have enhanced your life with your dog through positive interaction. You may share any positive pet training story, whether it’s on our theme or not! Please enjoy the posts below as well.