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The nose always knows aka Trust your dog

April 19, 2018

I am fairly new to the scent sports having started it a couple of years ago as something I was interested in and had the opportunity to do some introductory training.  I find it interesting to watch the dogs work, it really is amazing (A reason I like barn hunt too). But like most things I only have time for so much, so my dog and I are still at a Novice level.

So what are Scent Sports?  There are several different venues that offer competition based on the work of detection dogs (drug dogs, bomb dogs, S&R dogs).  Like most things we compete in we are currently doing the AKC version called Scent Work (different venues use different rules and equipment). In the AKC venue the dogs have various difficulty levels in each search element (Container, Buried, Interior and Exterior searches).  The dogs search for cotton swabs soaked in essential oils of Birch, Anise, Clove and/or Cypress. The scents aka the hides are placed out of sight in a designated area and then the dog has to find them and let the handler know where it is located. The search is timed, the handler tells the judge the dog has found the hide and the time stops.  Fastest dog wins but a successful find is a qualifying run as long as it is done in the time allowed.

Trust your dog, how many time have we heard that phrase?  

But I have a hard time trusting my dog, not trusting that she knows what she is doing but trusting that our communication is good.  Trusting that I understand what she is trying to tell me.

I know she knows what she is doing since she possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors in her nose, compared to the about six million that I have in my nose. And the part of her brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is, proportionally speaking, 40 times greater than mine.

So why don’t I trust her, why do I second guess her?  That goes back to fear and training. Why fear? I am afraid I will make a wrong call and not get a ribbon.  Oh the Horror! I might not get a ribbon can you imagine how my life would be over if we didn’t Q. The fear is there because of training, have we trained enough that she knows what I am asking her and if so am I trained enough to understand what she is telling me?   Have I given her enough opportunities to work through any problems that might in the way? Weather, surfaces, distractions? Have I learned what she is telling? Currently the answer is a big fat NO! Lucky for us on our competition runs she has been a rock star and made sure her human partner is up to speed but it is strictly the talent and effort on the part of my canine partner that we have been successful.   It is all her at this point.

I am excited to move forward with my wonderful partner Bailey and Cali is going to start learning the language too.


Bailey, GCH Solstice Flying Circus, CAX, B-CAT SIN, SCN, SEN, RATS

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