Over three years ago, when we decided to add another dog to the family, I had big plans for our new Labrador retriever mix. Being a multiple pet family for us meant staying home more, and doing activities we could do together easily as much as possible. But when we added Luke to our family, I had it in my head that I wanted to do something more for our new dog. I wanted more training than our previous dogs had received, and possibly a sport. Agility was something I had always wanted to try.
Luke didn’t turn out to be the dog that was right for all of my plans. He is a dog who is fearful of strangers, and that only seemed to get worse as he got older. Then we found out at just about a year old that he had luxating patellas in both of his knees, and that jumping was not going to be an activity that would be good for him.
I put agility aside, even though we still try fun things at home like a tunnel and weave poles. I was so glad that nose works came on my radar (thanks to great blog friends Emma and her family) as a dog sport that was not just fun, but good for reactive dogs, especially to help build their confidence. We had figured out early on that Luke had a very good nose. We were sure he had some scent hound in him (though he is mostly Lab), but his DNA revealed that was dachshund, and not the beagle we thought!
No matter what his DNA said, we felt he had an amazing nose and since we’ve started nose works he has proven that to be true. Nose works turned out to be way more fun than I expected too, and I now also do it with our beagle Cricket. We may never compete, time will tell, but as time has gone on I also wondered if it was truly building Luke’s confidence or not.
I got my answer recently. When our weather finally turned nicer, and “snow mountain” melted off the patio, we were able to start doing some searches with him outside again. When we do searches with multiple closed boxes, it is recommended to “age” the birch scent by setting it up in the box and leaving it for ½ hour – an hour, so the scent really permeates the box and the area around it.
I had a set up aging when our contractor showed up at our door. Luke is OK with him at a distance but he came into the front entryway (there’s a door there so he’s still separated) before I could get Luke down to the bedroom, so that got Luke pretty wound up. We talked for a few minutes once I got Luke settled in that room. As if that wasn’t enough to ruin what focus Luke might have, as we headed outside to do the search, I noticed the town was grading our dirt road with big machinery. I’ve written before (Luke’s Progress Report) about how that sometimes scares Luke, though he has gotten better.
I figured the combination of those two things was going to be too much for him. I decided we’d try anyway, since I had the setup ready. Luke did great! Only once did he start to look towards the road and head that way with worry, but he quickly came back to do his searches. We did a few and he aced each and every one. Since it was our first time back outside for searches this year, I didn’t take any photos that time.
I think nose works is helping him to gain his confidence, and some of the other training we’re doing to keep him calm when strangers come by is probably helping as well. You certainly need a combination of many things with a fearful dog.
By the way, we also recently did Cricket’s first outside searches on the patio, and she did great too! The funny thing is, that day Luke was kind of distracted and didn’t do well (I don’t know why that day, but he was just in a mood and not focusing.) I was feeling disappointed about Luke, but Cricket’s success quickly cheered me up!
After her round, I brought Luke back out to do her easier searches, just so we could end on a good note with him. He did better then.
He will probably still have his off days, but I feel like we are really headed in the right direction with nose works. I believe dog sports, or trick training, whatever a certain dog enjoys (and Luke enjoys both), is a great way to help a shy dog like Luke build the confidence he needs.
We are pleased to be co-hosting the Positive Pet Training blog hop with Tenacious Little Terrier and Travels with Barley. Pet bloggers, please join us in this hop by posting your positive pet training stories. The hop remains open through Sunday. Our theme this month is “Dog Sports”. Tell us about your dog sports and how they have enhanced your life with your dog through positive interaction. You may share any positive pet training story, whether it’s on our theme or not! Please enjoy the posts below as well.
Tenacious Little Terrier says
Yay, I’m glad it’s helping Luke’s confidence. We recently got a snuffle mat and have been playing with that. I think Luke would like one too and it would be another chance to use his nose!
Sand spring Chesapeake says
Yeah for cricket, she knows how to make you smile.
My Dog Store says
Nose work & scent games offer your dog a fun way to use their natural talents. For fun or competition, is a terrific sport for both you and your dog.
I’m glad you’ve found something so enjoyable to do with the dogs. Nose work sounds lots of fun! We have a game we play with treats where I use my nose to find them.
I also go to competitive obedience classes with my biped and have lots of fun. But we don’t enter any competitions as she says I’m not reliable enough!
We started out Luke with just treat games too, but he did so well at it, we decided to get more serious about it. Cricket would be happy if we just did it with treats, I think!
Not everyone is cut out for competition; and I think we might be in that group too. Between Luke’s reactivity and my lack of confidence, we probably wouldn’t make a great pair at that! 🙂
Jodi Stone says
I’m glad you found a sport that Luke, Cricket and you both enjoy, and it looks like they are doing quite well with it. So, you keep all the boxes closed and when they tell you which box it is, you reward them? I ask because I haven’t advanced my guys to birch yet, so right now the boxes are open and they just get the reward.
I play a food game with Delilah in the driveway, and I notice that she relies more on sighting the treat than sniffing it. It makes me wonder if her snooter is any good, then suddenly she dives into someone’s yard and comes out with a loaf of bread. I can’t figure it out. 🙂
I do distract her with treats when the town trucks are out doing their thing, and she does pretty well with them, but the garbage trucks are a whole different game.
We started out with the boxes open, and then moved on to closing them. At first, we open them up to reward them too, so they are really relating the scent to the reward.
Ha, Delilah just likes to use her nose on her own terms. 🙂
We still struggle with Luke and some things – like if the FedEx or UPS truck goes by, he’s far less likely to focus on me, and I usually lose him until the trucks are out of sight (never mind if they actually stop here). Luckily we do our nose works games before the normal delivery times. 🙂
That’s so great that he was able to focus after being wound up. Good job finding an activity that will do that for him!
Also, dachshund! Funny! Luke has always reminded me of my first dog, a springer spaniel named Fritzi.
Thank you for hosting the hop!
When we did Luke’s whole DNA guessing game a couple years ago, I think springer spaniel was one of the common guesses!
I know, dachshund seems so funny, and I think there was some other small dog in his DNA too – pomeranian? The only thing that made sense there is that poms can be shy I guess, so maybe that’s where some of that came from. 🙂
Monika & Sam says
I have my own ‘off’ days so I’m thinking Luke did wagnificently! Way to go, Luke. You both get a gold star today! ????
Cindy Grant says
Wow. it’s so great that Luke has made progress. And your story really inspires people to find a suitable sport for their pets.
Thank you, Cindy! I do hope this will encourage others to try new sports with their pets too!
Brian Frum says
Luke, we’re very proud of you and you just keep working that nose and things will be okay!
2 Brown Dawgs says
It is always great to see the dogs are able to work through distractions. I think sometimes as trainers we try to make setups perfect but sometimes imperfect is better. I definitely think job-type training is very helpful for reactive dogs.
M. K. Clinton says
I am so happy that Luke has found a sport that he can love! Emma and her gang really do a great job and I’m sure that Luke will too!
Thank you! Emma and her gang have been so inspiring to us!
Wow! Our posts are so similar today. I guess this is proof of how awesome noseworks can be. I’m glad Luke had such success after so many distractions!
Two success stories definitely have to mean something, right? I’m so glad this has helped Barley as well!
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
Ducky had an “off” day yesterday, but I’m not sure why since she didn’t present any symptoms. She was a little snarky and slept a good part of the afternoon and evening after playing in the yard most of the morning. Hopefully she’ll feel better today.
Glad Cricket and Luke are doing so well with their nose work! Maybe once I have my course behind me I’ll be able to start Ducky on nose works.
It might be a big benefit to Ducky as well! Hope she is feeling better today!
I’ve been doing “find” in the RV with Torrey. She has to to find the hidden cherrios. Obviously we don’t have many places to hide cherrios, and she is too dang smart. She goes right to where she knew they were before. Last night we did some different, and harder hides and that was better for her. How many boxes do you put the birch in? How do they know that’s what they are supposed to alert to? Where do you get the birch? Sorry for the questions, but I want to try this with her.
I don’t mind the questions, Mary! It sounds like this is something Torrey would really enjoy and be good at, since she’s doing so well with finding the treats. Right now, we only put the birch in one box. It’s a process to teach them how to find the scent, and there’s a couple different ways to do it. We took an online class at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, and since it’s online and you can do it at your own pace, that might work for you too. The cost for the basic class, with just the lessons (no interaction with the teacher) is only $65.
There’s a few different places to get the supplies; the class suggested a couple which I used, but Joy gets all hers from thek9nose.com and that’s where I was going to get my future supplies.
Roby Sweet says
Glad to hear Luke is progressing. Maybe I should try nosework with our Layla. She is pretty excitable and basically loses her mind whenever someone walks past the house. She LOVES learning things though, and I’ve noticed she is a little calmer when we’ve been having “school” every day. Challenge for me is to figure out things to teach her!
I bet you and Layla could have a lot of fun with this. I’m sure it’s tough finding things to distract her when people go by….we deal with the same thing here. It’s always a work in progress, and anything that helps, even a little bit, is good!
It is always amazing to watch fearful dogs work through distractions because they have a job they love to do and they learn to make it the priority. They learn they are safe when they are searching and they get to work. Not every day is perfect for dogs, just as humans have off days. It could also be the wind, temperature, all kinds of things that effect how the odor is traveling. Sometimes one dog nails it and the next can’t find it at all because of a wind change. It’s all part of the nose work puzzle. So happy you found a fun sport for him! Sometimes the aging makes it more challenging as the odor spreads to other boxes and articles so the dog really has to work to find the source.
Thank you for explaining all that about different things that could have been a factor in Luke’s off day! That is great to know and makes me feel better. I do think it was a bit breezy that day too. It’s been rainy ever since then so we haven’t been able to try it outside again yet. Usually when Luke has a bad spell like that, the next time he’s right on it, so hopefully that holds true!
great you found that hot box Luke ;o) I’m sure nosework is a super way to become a team… and that makes it easier to solve all other problems. We start a little nosework too, Phenny likes it very much, he is a full concentrated noseworker and it seems that is his thing… Easy was not patient enough, butt all anipals are different LOL
So glad you and Phenny are having some fun with this too! Dogs are each definitely different, and I actually didn’t think Cricket would do well with it at all, but she’s surprised me. Though she does still sometimes get focused on the fact that I have treats, and forgets what she’s supposed to be doing. LOL