This is part 2 of a 3 part series. If you need to catch up you can go back to post 1 here!
Nose Work is not full of artificial rules, like “your dog must be on this side, or the other”, or “your dog’s feet must be within the colored zone”, or “you can’t be closer than / farther away than this line I just chalked out on the floor”. There aren’t any strangers who are going to fondle the dog, or any requirements that “you must sit, here”, or “you must stand in this way”. In Nose Work, your dog’s only job is to hunt.
OK, so there are some artificial aspects to it:
- How many dogs would naturally choose to “hunt” the scent of Birch oil (or, explosives, or gunpowder, or narcotics, or dead folks, or whatever)? Not too many.
- No one has to “hunt” a hot dog, either – so, one could argue that this is “artificial”, and I couldn’t really deny that.
There is something else, too – the dog I primarily “run”, Penny, is a killer. She has taken down squirrels and rabbits, in the back yard. Her “hunting” mechanic, in the case of live prey, is to charge in at about seven meters per second, snatch the prey by the neck, and break that neck – then, she goes into “prance around the yard / take the victory lap” mode. She does not do this, when playing Nose Work.
What happens in Nose Work approximates, very closely, what Penny does when she is “crittering” – when she smells a critter under the shed, for instance, and is looking for the avenue of approach that will lead her to the kill. So, although I acknowledge that there may be some artificial aspects to “the game”, Penny is doing what comes naturally to her. She is a predator. She is predating. My presence is sort of incidental, aside from helping Penny realize what game we are playing – she does know that I am the Cookie Monkey, that when she has successfully located the scent, I will do the Monkey Chatter thing (called, “Alert”, which she doesn’t really understand), and then I will reward her at the source location, with treats of some kind (for us, it’s almost always beef hot dogs).
What is it, about Nose Work, that pulled me off the spectators’ bench, and has me heading towards the competition ring, when no other doggy-related sport has ever done that, in the past?
A huge part of it is the fact that I don’t feel like I’m asking my dog to do anything that is absolutely goofy, in my mind. I don’t care about having my dog prance around on a “dog walk”, or whether he or she can rocket through a tunnel, or jump over a very specific sequence of jumps – I admit that the training behind these tasks is formidable, and I see the benefits of building that degree of trust and teamwork between the species involved, but I just don’t care about doing it, myself. I think it is goofy. That’s about all there is, to it.
I DO realize that I am being short-sighted, in saying this – I know that all of this “artificial” dog-sport training will make a dog far more confident, “in the field”, when confronted with weird obstacles presenting themselves along the scent path (fences, culverts, debris, etc.). I also recognize that the other dog-sports help the dog develop those “problem solving skills” that they lost, way back when, when dogs became “domesticated”. A host of foundational training skills (like, the ability to cue a “drop”, or a “stay / wait”, or a “recall”) can be real life-saving talents, if you are operating in an otherwise unsafe environment. If you ARE working with explosives, you’d BETTER have a very reliable “Leave It”, for example.
I am extremely fortunate – this aversion to participating, directly, in these other sports has been reinforced, because my spouse is training all the talents that I might see as “extraneous”, or “secondary”. I get the best of all the available worlds, and all I have to do is be the Cookie Monkey. This is totally unfair, and I realize it – still, it might be the payoff for all those years of being the “Kennel Biscuit”…?
Part 3 in this series will be published tomorrow! Subscribe to our blog now if you’d like to receive updates directly to your inbox!