Friday, April 1, 2016

Perri's New Game: K9 Nosework

Since January of this year, Perri and I have been working on a new sport: K9 Nosework.   We tried Nosework last year, but Perri was not as confident as she is now, and we were juggling a working spot in an Obedience class on FDSA.  She was not very into it last year and neither was I.   Fast forward to this year.  I was desperate to have something to work her brain while she was still on semi-restriction from her injury.   When we were in that limbo of her still being restricted, but not having to suck up so much time on her daily PT exercises...I wanted a project.  

This time around, Perri is loving Nosework.  She is a careful and thoughtful worker.   We have been training with the method taught on Fenzi Dog Sports Academy: straight to odor.   No issues this year for Perri.  Last year she was disturbed by the scent, worried about making mistakes.  This year, she remembered what we worked on in the past and was extremely confident.  Extremely obedient to odor.   Her tail is up and often swaying side to side while she searches.

There is only one issue: I can't seem to get myself to enjoy Nosework!   I am ashamed of this.  Nosework seems to catch fire in people like finding a new religion.  It seems to seize people with a red hot passion.   This is not happening for me.  My enjoyment in the sport is purely because my dog enjoys it and I can see that it is good for her.  It is difficult for me to motivate myself to train, but always when we are training, I am happy.   Because Perri is happy.  So for now, that's going to have to be good enough.

Right now we are working hard for her Odor Recognition Test, or "ORT".  A dog must pass this test before she is permitted to enter a trial.  Dogs need to test on three scents: Birch, Anise and Clove.  You can do one or all scents at one ORT.  Perri is entered for her Birch ORT in mid-May, though I have introduced her to Anise and she seems even stronger on Anise to me than she has been on Birch!  So, maybe we will do more.

"ORT boxes"
Perri is very thoughtful and honest when she searches.   She never false alerts.  Our main focus is generalizing her searching to new locations.  It is incredible to see the difference in her in a new location versus at home.  This is an area where I do find Nosework fascinating: I can see so clearly how a new environment affects her work.   Because she is working independently and not with me, I can just watch her.  Perri is so "fragile" and "environmental" and it is interesting to see the "mistakes" that she makes simply because her focus is divided.  I observe her walking past the "hot box" sometimes two or three times before she realizes that it is the correct one and alerts.   At home she is so fast and sure of herself.  The most important thing is for me to not help her - other than never setting up a too-difficult situation for her.  The search, appropriate to her experience level, needs to be done on her terms and timeline.  She has to work it herself, because that is what builds the confidence.

So, we will see where this journey takes us!  It is a tough road to go down, a sport I am lukewarm about.  What keeps me interested in this sport is that, as funny as this seems, I feel like it is helping me to get to know Perri.   I feel that it is helping her, making her brave, making her happy.   That has to be enough for now, until the passion finally seizes me.

Perri a month or so ago at home in our garage.

Perri a few weeks ago in a very challenging environment.  (bad camera view does not show all boxes.)


  1. I just started the dog's first lesson yesterday!!! I admit that I don't think I'll be very excited about it as I just can't get into scent training. But i know Lance is dying for something to do and Vito just loves to sniff.

    I am so glad Perri is loving it and I'm sure her confidence will continue to increase!

  2. I know that even though the sport does not excite YOU, you being the awesome dog mom that you are will continue on this journey because it makes Perri happy. And in the end, that alone is a reason to continue with the sport.