The bond between a handler and their dog can often be amplified when they attend a training class together, however for a number of dog owners, the thought of taking part can fill them with anxiety and dread due to their dogs 'naughtiness'. Examples of these so called 'naughty' behaviours often include: destructiveness, aggression towards other dogs, vocal and hyperactivity.
If your dog has a tendency to stray, become hyperactive or run off when on a walk, they most likely have a high hunt and prey drive. This is the dog's desire to pursue, capture and kill prey. Dog's that display behaviours such as barking, growling and snapping can often be referred to as 'reactive'.
If you want to find an activity with your 'naughty' or 'reactive' dog, what is suitable? Scent Detection is a dog sport and training activity based on detection style nose work, practiced by search and rescue dogs, military bomb explosive dogs, customs and exercise dogs and medical detection dogs. Searches often involve vehicles/ rooms with items such as tables and random items.
Scent Detection classes are ran so that they don't have to involve interactions with other dogs as they facilitate dog's searching one at a time, with rest breaks in between. Should you want to compete, our trials also accommodate reactive dogs and teams are given a time slot of which to attend. If you are particularly anxious about attending a class, a 1-2-1 style training method may interest you more.
IS IT ONLY FOR PARTICULAR BREEDS AND AGES?
Any breed of dog can participate in Scent Detection, research has shown that brachycephalic dogs such as Pugs are readily able to learn and discriminate odour and can outperform both German Shepherds and Greyhounds when both learning the odour, and detecting decreased concentration of the odour. Dogs that have a high hunt drive are often considered the most appropriate and people commonly look for dogs with these traits as they are considered more trainable, showing increased motivation and determination. However, we have dogs of all breeds and ages from Labradors to Shih-tzu and 14 weeks to 14 years.
Tips for finding and attending Scent Detection classes
Before you enroll onto a course, discuss with us our training methods and how we can best help your dog to feel comfortable in our classes. If you would like to enroll, check out our website for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check with us as to what you should do with your dog when you arrive. We encourage that you leave your dog in the car and find our instructor as we often talk about the searches for 10 minutes at the start of the class and will talk about the order that the dogs will be searching in. We will also tell you where you can exercise your dog to toilet them.
Class sizes are always kept to a maximum of 6 dogs and we provide sufficient rest breaks between each exercise. Scent Detection can be extremely tiring so it is important that they aren't on the go at all times.
Whilst your dog is on a rest break, take advantage of being able to watch other dog-handler teams. This gives you the opportunity to look at how a dog's body language might change when they think they've found the scent, something which can be difficult to notice in your own dog when working them.
Ensure you take extremely high-value treats along to help teach your dog and to reward for searching. In the first instance, dogs are often taught to search for food before introducing them to the target odour. Cubes of cheese, slices of sausage or primula cheese is often a good treat option. If your dog is not food motivated, try using their favourite toys instead.
Some dogs pick up the game of searching quicker than others. Do not be discouraged if your dog doesn't pick it up immediately, there are plenty of training games that can be used to encourage dogs to enjoy searching at their own place.
When dogs find the scent, they may display a range of natural behaviours including nosing or pawing at the scent; this is called an active indication. We can also teach our dogs a passive indication, such as a freeze or a sit to tell us that they have found the scented article. A passive indication may be appropriate to teach your dog if you are searching something such as vehicle, particularly if they naturally scratch at the hide!