Below - A report from Elizabeth Kennedy on her recent nose work class with Linda Chwistek. Thank you Elizabeth (and Linda!)
Confession: my dog Stella and I were “dog dancing” flunkies—as it became clear she was not destined to be a Rockette, I cast around for a new calling, something that would suit a sensitive little hunter.
Then along came nose work. A sport that builds upon a dog’s natural ability to locate a scent, nose work starts dogs out on a course with a basic, strong smell—say a bag of stinky treats—hidden in one of five boxes all lined up. They’re walked on a leash beside the boxes and rewarded when they pick out the treat box. From there, the game is refined—with boxes scattered everywhere, less treats in the box, things being hidden higher, buried deeper, stuck in stuff other than boxes, on cars, on grassy outdoor courses, you name it. As the dog advances, so does the game. The idea, at its essence, is just to set the dogs free to do what they do best: act like a dog.
Every single dog in this class—without exception—loved it. And that only makes sense. Dogs have 220 million olfactory receptors to only 5 million for humans. That means they can smell forty-four times as well as we can! They’re designed for this sport; it employs the tools evolution afforded them. Dogs are able to follow a scent like it's a thread right to a source. Watching the satisfaction the dogs got in hunting, I was reminded (silly human!) that dogs have their own native intelligence, way more keen than the paces of sit, shake, roll over we often put them through.
And beyond their genetic predispositions, dogs get such a boost from this work. Take little Stella, for example. Some might say Stella has been something of a scaredie cat in her day. Rescued by officers during a drug raid in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan, she’d come to fear a good few things in life, boxes among them. But take a look at her on the job here, sticking her big ol’ anvil-head straight into boxes, coolers, crates, and cones, all on the hunt for the buried treasure. You’d never in a million years know this dog had a fear in the world. And neither would she.
Stella locating the source hidden in an apple basket.
Stella is excited to be working.