We are all sick of winter. I get it, man. I so get it. I want sunshine and more daylight and less ice and a tan in THE. WORST. WAY. Humans are getting bored, dogs are getting bored and we have another week of frigid temps coming. So, I thought I'd share with you one of our go-to games for when the weather hinders our outdoor exploration and play. It's fast, you can play during commercial breaks and you can teach your dog some super important concepts/skills along the way.
I remember the very first nose work class that I took with Hilo - he was a wee babe of a Havanese, hyper as the day is long - we had solved every puzzle, went on every field trip, met all the people, played with all the dogs and quickly realized that we needed to find the kid a job.
He was the only dog in class who was not a hound, hunting or working dog. I wondered if I'd made a terrible mistake. He had even recently been called a purse dog (ps - do not call small dogs purse dogs unless they are actually in a purse, and even then...). Buuut, Hilo soon demonstrated that nose work is for all dogs, big or small, short and tall (read: he totally kicked a$$). As we spent more time playing nose games, he became really excited to work, really focused on the task at hand, and so determined and confident about solving each hide. We also saw improvements in his ability/interest/motivation to listen and focus. His sleep seemed more restful. And, we’ve continued playing scent games as a regular part of our day for all the dogs (and kitties too!)
Those who have a nose work practice with their dogs report all sorts of benefits including giving a dog something to do (that isn’t rampaging at daycare or the dog park), bond building with human, increased independence and problem solving skills, and building confidence and optimism.
We participated in a several nose work classes and they were a blast, but advanced levels got a little too heavy into trials, competition, and rules and that's just not our jam, so we started to make up games at home.
This is where we start with each new dog. We call it “Noses” (I know, I know....we're sooo clever)
And here’s how you play:
Multi-Dog Households: And, I give credit to my hubby for starting this one because I used to just make all the dogs take turns. We now have a 3-player game called “3 Rooms” - each dog gets to play at the same time, but in different rooms. Why can’t they play together? Same reason we separate them with food, Kongs and special chews - we want them to fully enjoy the game/experience and not ruin something awesome with unnecessary competition or resource guarding!
Our ranch style house is perfect for this, however you can create a similar game using x-pens or baby gates OR just let the dogs play 1 at a time.
And for the kitties
Each night, we “put the kitties to bed" with a little wet food and a handful of their kibble hidden all around their room - it gives these nightstalkers a great activity and the rest of us a peaceful night’s sleep. Our dude, Baja, loves to play puzzles for his dinner, too (he loves to play for the dogs' dinner more, however).
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Our rescue dog, Rizzo, is finishing class, which offered great practice on important foundation behaviors around the distraction of other dogs and people. We also just wrapped up three sessions of one-on-one training with Jess to improve his focus and walking skills. I cannot express how wonderful our experience was. Jess brings such an incredible energy to each lesson and truly cares about your dog and how training is progressing. Her lessons are well-planned, but keep the dog engaged and having tons of fun. If you are debating signing up for a class or one-on-one -- do it. You will not regret it! We can't wait to sign Rizzo up for more." - Anna S.
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