There are few things that give a dog as much mental stimulation as nose work. There are a variety of ways to train your dog’s nose. Often it can be associated with arranged training sessions, which can make it feel like something you don’t have time for in your daily life. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are some tips for activities that let your dog’s nose work, even on a walk.
Hiding candy is a popular classic. The exercise works just as well at home in the garden as on a walk. Preferably use soft candy that sticks well to logs and rocks. You can tie your dog to a tree while you prepare the hides. Place the treats so the dog has to search close to the ground and also stand on its hind legs. At first, you may need to help and point a little to get your dog to find the treat, but once they get the hang of it, they tend to do better.
Track the ball
A fun exercise that is easy to do in everyday life is to use a ball that has been placed in a bag of your dog’s favorite treats. The point of this exercise is for the dog to find small scent particles left behind when you roll or bounce the ball away from you. Make a small mark in the ground with your foot on a soft surface. Rub the ball on the mark, then roll the ball. A reasonably flat, sloping surface usually makes it easier. This can be a little tricky at first, but practice and you’ll soon get a good technique. It is an advantage if the ball is placed so that the dog cannot see it. If it’s too short, you can take a big step to the side of the ball track and roll it some more. Show the dog your mark, move slowly forward on the trail, point slightly to the ground and speak in a calm but encouraging manner when the dog does the right thing. It can be difficult for the dog to know what to do, but if you repeat the exercise and create an interest in the ball track yourself, the dog will eventually understand. Reward the dog when it reaches the ball.
Single person traces
Having the dog follow a trail of something is usually a popular exercise. It doesn’t have to be advanced at all, but you can let a friend go and hide in the forest, maybe 50 meters at first, and let the dog track them down after a while. It’s a tasty reward for your dog. You can also lay sausage tracks, or a track with different toys placed on it. Yes, what your dog appreciates the most! It is not the length of the track that is important, but that the dog feels motivated to do the task. Then shorter tracks are better, with a really good reward at the end. Work it out with different substrates and longer lying time.
Getting started with game trails
Wildlife trails as an activity are very popular. However, this requires a little more planning. You need to ask the hunting rights holder and/or landowner for permission to lay blood trails in their forest. You will also need to lay the track and leave it for at least two to five hours.
This is what you need:
– A forest you can use.
– Game part, such as a deer or elk hoof.
– Blood. Beef blood is often available at the grocery store. Available in the freezer section.
– A string to pull the game part with.
– A small bottle for the blood. Make a small hole in the cork.
Start by laying explanatory tracks
You start by putting a marker on the ground where you want to start. The line should be right where you start, so that you know the dog is getting the right scent on the nose when you start. Drop a few extra drops of blood at the start. Put the game part that you attached to a string down there too. Before you go, you can take out a landmark about 20 meters away. Try to concentrate more on your surroundings as you walk, rather than on the blood bottle and game part. It doesn’t matter if there is a little more or less blood sometimes. If you have the bottle in your right hand, every time you put your right leg down, you can angle the bottle to produce a drop. You can hold the string with the game part in your other hand. Walk the 20 meters and then add the game section at the end. You can lay three similar tracks in the same training session. Then the dog will understand what it means for it to follow this scent.
After a couple of hours on the trail, you pick up your dog. Have a harness and leash and extra good reward. Show your dog the start of the trail, saying “trail” in a calm voice when your dog’s nose is on your blood mark at the trailhead. After that, you can be silent. Do not reward or command your dog. Let it explore the scent at its own pace. Here we are often in too much of a hurry, which disturbs the dog more than it helps it. If the dog is reluctant to move on, just walk forward in the core of the track, without looking at your dog or saying anything. When your dog decides to take on the trail, you can give him a little more space in front of you. Once at the end of the track, it is important to reward the dog properly. Think Friday cosy deluxe! Extra good reward, some play with the hoof and reward with a pat and voice. Now you immediately continue walking the other tracks you laid at the same time, do you see any difference in the dog’s interest or focus already at track two?
Writer Helena Lyckoskog