Frankie has the cutest nose in the world, a little black button of a sniffer. I have a tough time keeping myself from touching it, much to his annoyance.
But I have to admit, I’ve never thought of it as particularly effective. He just doesn’t seem to use his nose as much as other dogs do. When we’re on the trail, he rarely tugs on his leash to try to sniff at anything.
It’s true that he’s often aware of my putterings around the kitchen, and it’s not noise that rouses him from his slumber because we live on a busy street. It’s also true that, when we’re outside, he’s probably more concerned about keeping up with me, his protector, than about checking out his environment.
But what about his squeaky carrot, his favorite toy? He loves to toss it around at home yet often can’t seem to locate it by scent. That’s one of the many questions — most of them of more general interest — that I asked Kelly Dunbar, a Certified Nosework Instructor through the National Association of Canine Scent Work during my Animal Cafe interview with her about this new sport.
What it is
K9 Nose Work was developed in southern California in 2006 by Jill Marie O’Brien and Ron Gaunt, certified trainers who had worked with dogs using their noses in a professional — and serious — capacity for police and detection work. Their awareness of how much their charges enjoyed their employment gave them the idea to extend it to a sport that pet dogs could also benefit from.
What Makes it Frankie- and City- Friendly
Unlike tracking, which has also become popular, K9 Nose Work doesn’t require your dog to put his nose to the ground in wide open fields. Instead, your dog learns to find certain designated scents by sniffing the air in a variety of locations, including boxes and vehicles.
And it’s a one-on-one, handler-dog activity so shy guys like Frankie don’t have to interact with strange canines or humans.
At least in the long run. Initially, both team members need to be instructed in how to let go and allow the dog to literally follow his nose, forgetting most training techniques they’ve previously experienced.
But What About Arizona?
As you’ll hear from the following interview, Kelly assured me that Frankie could learn how to do this, that all he needed was a bit of motivation. I got very excited at the idea of giving my little guy more confidence, and even fantasized that I could become an instructor eventually (yes, I’m ready for another career). But then I discovered that there are no K9 Scent Work classes in Arizona, so I can’t even learn how to work with Frankie, much less teach anyone else to do it.
Listen to the interview to find out why I was so excited about this sport. And then find someone willing to come to Tucson (or Phoenix) so we can enjoy it too, y’hear? Send along a picture of that little furry Frankie face if you need to.