MEEKER I Dogs are pets, friends, protectors, helpers, comforters and companions. They may eat our slippers and dig holes in our flower beds, but there’s nothing quite like coming home to happy eyes and wagging tails at the end of a long day.
Strengthening the relationship with your pet is one way to keep your slippers unharmed.
One type of behavioral training—scent work—is growing more and more popular. While the term may bring to mind the K-9 sniffers on your favorite police drama, scent work is purely for fun and enjoyment.
It doesn’t require any special skills, and all breeds and ages of dog are welcome. Scent work is especially good for pet owners who may have a hard time with more physically demanding types of training and for dogs that have physical limitations or are shy, reactive or fearful.
The basic premise of scent work is to teach your pup to locate specific scents.
Training begins with birch essential oil as the target odor, then anise and clove oils are used.
Once the dog learns to associate scents with treats, they’ll start exhibiting a special behavior to let you know when they’ve found a scent.
Some dogs bark, some spin in circles, some lie down. Every dog has its own unique “tell” and part of the fun is learning how your dog communicates.
There are four search locations or “elements” involved as well: containers, interior, exterior and vehicles.
Arlene Estes and her Border collie, Deuce, travel from Meeker to Craig, Colo., a few times each month to do scent work training with the Colorado Northwestern Community College Canine Sniffers.
Estes and Deuce started doing scent work two years ago. Recently, they competed in their first trial. The competitions, sanctioned by the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW), take place all across the country. There are four different levels of competition, and participants work through each element while being timed and scored by trial officials.
One such trial took place at Meeker High School June 10-12. More than 100 teams from 13 states participated.
Dana Zinn, who was instrumental in getting nose work going in Colorado, competed with her 11-year-old Belgian Tervuren named Kudos.
“I was hooked pretty much immediately,” she said about scent work. “It’s all about partnership with your dog and it’s really fun.”
Zinn and Kudos have competed in trials in Chicago, Oregon, Washington, Texas and many other states. Last year, they won the national championships.
They particularly enjoyed Meeker as a trial location and are hopeful more trials will be scheduled here in the future.
Of course, if competition isn’t your style, there’s no requirement to participate in the trials.
“You have fun and that’s what matters,” Estes said. “It’s all about teamwork with my dog.”
To find out more about getting started with scent work, contact Canine Sniffers instructor Laura Tyler at 970-824-5148 or Arlene Estes at 970-878-5655.