Last year when I played nose work games with Luke with treats, he did great, and he really enjoyed it. I had always wanted to go further though and learn true nose works with real scents, not just treats; even if we didn’t ever decide to compete or try to get titles like our friends at MyGBGVLife. Congrats to Emma on getting her 4th Nose Work title recently!
I decided what would work best for us would be to take an online class through Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. We signed up for Introduction to Nose Works which started August 1st. We are running about two weeks behind because of things going on, but that is the convenience of the online classes, we can do it at our own pace and on our own time. They have three levels of classes; gold, silver, and bronze and the bronze level which we’re doing is similar to auditing a class. We don’t submit the video homework and we can’t ask questions of the teacher; but we do have access to all of the forums so we can see the other students’ videos and questions, as well as the instructor’s feedback.
It has been so much fun and Luke has been moving along quickly. There have been a couple of times I felt like he wasn’t getting it; but as has been typical of any training with him, just when I think he doesn’t get it, the next time we do it he’s right on it.
So far he’s been most challenged when we used different containers for the scents (the tin with the scented Q-tips goes inside a plastic container, box, shoe or other item); and when I started elevating the containers from the ground. He’s gotten past both of those things now and we just recently tried adding a mild distracting scent. He has barely “false alerted” at all. We also just tried his first interior search without containers (just a tin with odor) and he aced it!
As far as generalizing on locations, that has not been an issue for him. If he sees the boxes and containers, he knows what it’s all about and he’s right on it. We’ve used different rooms in the house, and we’ve been out on the patio as well and even if he gets distracted by something out there, he comes back to it. I just got him a special harness and leash so we can start trying the garage, barn, and driveway at some point as well. I believe this course only covers interior searches though.
The video I’m sharing today shows Luke conducting searches through different ground level containers. Only one container is “hot” meaning it has the scented tin inside it. Right now we treat heavily when he selects the correct container.
There are 4 searches in the video. In the first one, I can see where I screwed up a bit by treating him when he took his nose off the container, but you can also see (at about 27 sec) where I hold the treat away from the container – called proofing – and he did not take his nose off to follow it! The second search I think we both got it right, and I made the third one a bit tougher by hiding the hot container next to the toy box. It took him longer but he got there! The final search was an easy one, which is how we always end.
The more I do this, the more the idea of competing appeals to me, especially if Luke keeps doing so well. This is a great sport for reactive dogs, though I think I might like to take one of Fenzi’s reactive dog classes before taking that step. We’ll see, trials mean traveling for us as well, so that would be a big factor. In the meantime, the point for him is to build his confidence, and to have some fun.
Our class has technically ended, but we still have about two weeks’ worth of lessons to go through. The school saves them in a “library” for us so we have access for a year. We’ll have another progress report at some point, and I’d say we definitely plan on moving on to the second class at some point.
For anyone that is considering trying this, I highly recommend it. Luke gets so excited when he knows we’re going to practice. It’s the ultimate in Positive Reinforcement training, I think. They really can’t do anything “wrong”, making it a totally positive experience. We are supposed to limit the times we spend on each session but I often find myself doing just a little more…..simply because we’re having so much fun!
We are joining the Positive Pet Reinforcement hop this week. It begins on the first Monday of every month and runs all week long. The hop is hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier, and Rubicon Days.