Meet Zoy, a 9-year old Black Lab who is benefitting from K9 Nose Work®.
Zoy is a friendly 9-year old girl with a big smile and a zest for life. She loves to swim, and to bounce in the air as a way of greeting her human friends. Nothing stops Zoy from wagging her tail and being her naturally exuberant self. Not orthopedic surgery on both her knee joints… nor another surgery to remove some hardware from one of her knees… and not even her most recent surgery of a front limb amputation after a diagnosis of osteosarcoma.
Zoy did well after surgery and throughout chemotherapy. She gets regular acupuncture treatments to strengthen her immune system as well as help her musculoskeletal system handle the challenges of 3-legged life. One of Juliana’s questions for me at our first appointment was whether acupuncture could calm Zoy’s excess energy. Acupuncture can help with many health problems, and is most recognized for its success in pain control. But for anxiety and high energy, acupuncture alone is less likely to be a solution. We discussed Zoy’s diet and supplements. We talked about trying a Thundershirt. These are standard measures that have helped many of my patients with anxiety or hyperactivity. There was something else Juliana could try: K9 Nose Work®. And Zoy has been attending Nose Work classes with her mommy, Juliana, now over the last several months!
I had read some articles about Nose Work over the past few years. The benefits sounded impressive, but I personally did not know any dogs who had tried it. So until now, I could not verify the claims about this canine activity that sounded like it had benefits for dogs similar to what yoga offers to humans: helps them be more calm, confident, focused, and emotionally/mentally balanced.
Scent detection work is different from other activities dogs do with their owners. In agility or obedience training, the dog focuses on the human giving commands. Nose Work is all about the dog’s self-expression of natural hunting and sniffing instincts. Dogs doing Nose Work are working “with” humans, but only because we give them a particular scent to track. After that, it is all up to the dog. They use their internal drive to do what comes naturally.
The trainers who teach Nose Work classes emphasize that once the dog is doing this work, the owners are not to give commands or try in any way to direct the dog. Once the dog finds the scent, the owner must pay close attention to whatever signal that dog displays (a certain look or postural cue). Owners do not teach dogs how to signal a find. The owner pays attention in order to learn what signal their dog uses once they have found their target.
In Nose Work classes, dogs learn at their own pace. One dog at time does the scent work while the other dogs wait in crates or cars. Any dog, of any breed, can do Nose Work: young or old, agile or arthritic, large or small. They develop problem-solving skills to build their confidence. The shy or fearful dogs become more socially well adjusted, and are willing to express their natural curiosity. Dogs displaying “attention deficit disorder” develop a more focused, easy-going manner. Hyperactive dogs will more readily relax. If you want to see your dog with a satisfied and content expression and a peaceful posture, give K9 Nose Work® a try.