If you’ve ever trained a dog before, you know there are many different ways to teach your dogs how to do things. Teaching the activity of nosework is no different! Spend just a few minutes searching for nose work on social media and you will see various ways to train…and no one agreeing on any of them.
Over the thirteen years I have been teaching nosework I have trained it different ways with varying results. To make a long blog post short – yes, they all work DEPENDING ON THE DOG AND HANDLER AND WHAT THE GOALS ARE.
And that sentence right there is why we teach the way we do. Our goal is to introduce this super awesome activity to as many dogs as possible. It doesn’t matter if the dog is living in a shelter with no skills or if the dog has multiple titles in many different sports – ALL dogs can learn how to play nosework using the K9 Nose Work® methodology.
By teaching this method, we find it gives the dogs autonomy to make decisions and hone their skills. We are giving them the freedom to be a dog. They are not searching where we tell them to, they are searching where the odor leads them. And this is the most beautiful dance to watch. As a trial official for many scent work organizations there is nothing prettier than watching a dog lead a search with the handler supporting the dog… and it is downright painful to watch a dog being dragged around a search area being given orders on where to search and then being ignored when they are trying to communicate that they’ve found something.
And while most everyone will agree this method is best for our pet dogs, nervous dogs, reactive dogs, fearful dogs, etc., what about the competitive dogs? Can’t they skip all of this searching for primary and just enter trials tomorrow? Well, yes, they can…and they do, but why would you want to take these foundation lessons away from your competitive dog? We’ve found that all of our students that started using this methodology have exceled in trials earning multiple “pronounced” scores and placements.
And the real reason we follow this methodology is because of the K9 Nose Work® philosophy and guiding principles. These can be found on the K9 Nose Work website, but we’ll include the philosophy below because we feel so strongly about it:
The K9NW℠ philosophy is to embrace the journey and enjoy every moment of learning with your dog.
Dogs perform best and are the most joyful when we allow them to learn on their terms. They are happiest using their natural abilities, especially their amazing olfactory sense.
The human-canine bond deepens when dog handlers expand their understanding of canine communication. This is accomplished by carefully observing dogs as they independently seek odor sources in their environment. These odors can be primary reward scents or target scents the dog has been trained on.
I will leave you with one last quote from Jill Marie O’Brien, co-founder of NACSW™:
“If you lead your dog through the search area, eventually they will bump into odor and let you know it’s there. But we're building SEARCH dogs, not odor targeting dogs.”
So we ask you - what would YOU rather have???