Did you know that your dog has up to 300 million olfactory receptors whereas we only have 6 million? This means a dog can smell a drop of blood in a room the size of an Olympic swimming pool! The part of your dog’s brain that deals with this is 40 times larger than ours meaning smell is their primary sense.
I see lots of people taking their dog for a walk yet they don’t allow them to sniff. Can you imagine going to the cinema with a blindfold over your eyes? By not letting your dog sniff this is essentially what you are doing. It can take a dog up to 12 seconds to get all of the information they need from one smell e.g What animal has been there previously? Was that animal ill? Do they know that animal? Was the animal in season? And lots more. In the dog world we say our dogs are going for a walk to read their ‘pee mails’!
Do you know how your dog’s nose works? It can separate air into 2 and each nostril can work independently. They can even take in air and breath out at the same time. Have you ever tried to do that? I can guarantee you can’t (I bet you’re trying now though!).
There are lots of benefits to scentwork including
- Calming. Anything your dog does that includes licking, sniffing or chewing can release relaxing endorphins in your dogs body.
- Mental stimulation. We are so fixated on the physical fitness of our dogs that mental stimulation is often overlooked. Regular brain work has been linked with a reduction in doggy dementia in later life.
- Decompression. Lots of dogs are constantly chasing balls and running around. They never do anything calming. This means adrenaline is always keeping them ‘wired’ so they can’t relax. I often see if with certain breeds e.g Border Collies. The long term implications of this aren’t great for a dogs health mentally and physically. By all means let them run about to use up some energy but then encourage them to sniff so they can switch off and properly relax once home.
- Reduction in reactivity. By allowing your dog to sniff it can work as a great distraction when that big scary bike is coming past. It can also release those relaxing endorphins desperately needed in certain situations. It will build focus on the owner too. I use scent work with Vinnie and it helps with his reactivity.
- Increase in confidence. Free work is a common exercise used by trainers to help anxious and nervous dogs and one of the things we do in free work is encourage sniffing. As the dog submerges itself into the exercise it forgets about everything else that is going on and completely relaxes. You even see the muscles relax as the dog begins to enjoy what it is doing.
- Channelling the nose. You will never stop your dog sniffing. This is something that I say to people a lot! My question is why would you want to? By introducing scentwork into your dogs life you are allowing them that vent that they need and using it to your advantage. This will allow your dog to be a dog but will also give you some control and will massively improve your bond.
The good thing about scentwork is that any dog can do it. Whether you have a puppy, a senior dog, a reactive dog, a nervous dog, a Pug or a German Shepard, scentwork will be work. The chances are you probably already do scentwork by playing ‘find it’ or scattering your dog’s food.
I’m sure lots of you watched Crufts this year, or have seen Dragons Den? You may have been lucky enough to see Jamie Pound, owner of UK Sniffer Dogs, talking about scent detection. Jamie is the person that trained me for my UK Sniffer Dogs Bronze Instructor qualification. In this clip https://youtu.be/8-N6JcBW-ZY Jamie talks you through different ways to introduce your dog to scent.
In May I will be running UK Sniffer Dogs workshops and classes. These are at various days, times and locations. During these sessions your dog will learn how to indicate a scent, how to search for a scent and how to identify a specific scent. We start using a whole red Kong but as your dog improves it will search for smaller and smaller pieces in a variety of objects. Not only will your dog’s nose twitch but it’s tail will wag faster than ever as the excitement builds up to indicating that scent.
We work with food, but if your dog isn’t food motivated. No problem, we can use a toy. There is a way around everything. Bad weather? Even better, then rain can disrupt scents making it more fun for the dog. Your dog has a disability? Vinnie is partially sighted, arthritic and now deaf. He still loved every single second of scent detection. My dog is reactive? Book onto a workshop as they are outside so your dog can have space.
Scentwork isn’t just for working dogs and Spaniels. It really is for everybody.
Booking closes 8 days before the first session due to preparation you need to do with your dog. For more information or to book head over to the following link