Unlock Your Dog’s Talents With K9 Nose Work

Unlock Your Dog’s Talents With K9 Nose Work

By Dr. Tracy Dewhirst for Exceptional Canine

Unlock Your Dog’s Talents With K9 Nose Work

We dog owners strive to build strong relationships with our canines -- bonds based on trust, respect and fun. In the last few years, dog owners across the United States have discovered that putting their dogs’ noses to work provides just the sort of fun that strengthens those bonds. They’re embracing an activity called K9 Nose Work.

Amy Herot, a veteran handler of professional detection dogs, held the first class of K9 Nose Work just five years ago. Herot found that she was interested in teaching scent work as an activity after some naturally talented dogs were unable to become professional detection dogs due to behavioral traits. “The dogs loved the work and had a lot of potential. I hated for them to miss out just because they could not work professionally,” she says.

Herot started K9NW as a small group with owners and handlers who wanted to learn more about scent work. Many of the original members branched out and went on to become instructors. Now the activity has grown to every region of the United States, and new instructors are being trained for areas with higher demand.

Any Breed Can Do K9 Nose Work
Hunting instincts exist in all dogs. K9 Nose Work just helps the dogs explore and fine-tune their natural abilities. Any breed of dog can do scent work. In fact, the top winners of last year’s competition were a Boxer, a Husky and a French Bulldog.

Classes begin with dogs searching for toys and food. The next level of instruction introduces them to odors, and the final level trains the dog for extended searches. Competitions are held each year, but Herot reassures me that K9NW is, first and foremost, for the dog’s enjoyment.

Classes are typically held once a week for six weeks. The cost of a full session averages around $150. Dogs can begin at any age, but very young puppies usually do not have the attention span for a full lesson.

Nose Work Builds Confidence
A dog that is sensitive to its environment or has behavior issues, such as fears and anxiety, can improve with K9NW. There is no contact, not even eye contact, between dogs. Work is done independently, so the dog focuses only on the task at hand. The solitary environment builds confidence in the working dog.

Herot says that many of her clients are shocked when they watch their dog successfully search a vehicle, but she reassures me that K9NW is not a stepping stone to professional detection work.

Besides canine detection training, Herot’s passion is working with shelter dogs and rescues. She started a K9 Nose Work for shelter dogs to help the displaced animals find confidence in themselves and humans. Although the program is only in pilot phase and Herot has no hard evidence, she believes K9NW shelter program improves the dog’s chances of being adopted. “The dogs involved in K9NW have not been returned,” she says proudly.

To find a K9 Nose Work instructor in your area or to become an instructor, go to K9NoseWork.com.

Dr. Tracy Dewhirst, a graduate from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, practices small-animal and equine medicine in Knoxville, Tenn. She is a long-time columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel. Dewhirst also sits on the East Tennessee Peer Review Board. Dr. Dewhirst blogs frequently for Exceptional Canine.