The Benefits of Scentwork
Meaningful mental stimulation
Scentwork is a hugely beneficial activity for dogs and highly rewarding team activity for you too. It is great to bring out on a walk, for building communication between you and even for helping calm down dogs that seem to have endless energy.
What is scentwork?
Scentwork is an activity that you do together with your dog where they learn to find a particular scent hidden in some environment. This could be the smell of treats, their favourite toy or a specific odour that they are trained to find.
When teaching a dog to find an odour we ideally want to have an onset and a finish. This means that there is a specific cue to go sniff for something and a separate one to finish up. The reason for this is that otherwise you may have a dog who quickly learns to constantly learn to search for and eat food that has been thrown in the bushes.
Sniffing for things is a hugely rewarding activity for all dogs, some have been bred specifically for this purpose although almost every dog will get enjoyment out of it. The nice thing about scentwork is that the enjoyment is built in. You don't have to give your dog a treat as a reward for finding something if you build up the game in the right way, just as you don't have to give a border collie a treat for herding sheep, they get a natural enjoyment out of it.
Why should I be doing this with my dog?
There are a huge number of benefits to getting your dog searching and finding things. From your dog's point of view, it is naturally rewarding for them, it is a calming activity, it works their brains leaving them better satiated with the interaction time with you and also helps put the urge to search on a verbal cue so that you can use it when out on walks to help build attention and focus on you. A particularly nice aspect of scentwork, that when done correctly, it is a huge confidence booster for your dog. It teaches them that they have some control over the world around them and that we are listening to something they have to say rather than always the other way around.
From our point of view as owners, it is a great bonding tool. Being part of something that your dog naturally loves is a great way to help build your relationship further. It is also a great tool to teach other behaviours such as self control and general calming behaviours as we can use something they really like to do as a reward for doing something we really like.
How do I get involved?
There are lots of scent classes available from standard search work, usually called scentwork, to tracking via man trailing and traditional tracking classes. Whatever you decide to look at, make sure you go to a trainer who is not only qualified to teach this to your dog but also accredited. Accreditation means that their skills are regularly checked to ensure they are using modern training techniques that are best for you and your dog.
We run both formal and fun scentwork classes. The formal ones take you through the full process of teaching your dog to search for odours in different environments from buildings to offices, vehicles to luggage searches. We are fully accredited with ScentworkUK and will be holding trials with them as part of your progress. The fun scentwork classes focus on fun day to day searches and games that you can play with your dog to get as much benefit out of the activity as possible. Get in touch to enquire about up coming courses.