Back when Mike was in college (shortly after the Civil War, I assume), he was NEVER considered a BMOC (Big Man On Campus). I, on the other hand, have been a BDOC (Big Dachshund on Campus) since my youth. Not only was I the top dog in my puppy classes at the Ahimsa Academy, but all of the other dogs in my classes, all of their owners, and, most importantly, all of the dog trainers and all of the dog trainers’ assistants knew me by name. And that’s an important element in securing the kind of first-rate service I require.
My recent Introduction to Nose Work class was no exception: Once again, by the time my six sessions ended, it was again clear that I was the best student there. Nose work is in my genes.
In nose work, dogs find a target by following a scent. This course introduces dogs and their owners to the foundation skills needed to excel at finding things on cue using their nose. “The cool part about nose work is that you and your dog can do it anywhere – on walks, in the yard, in the house,” the Ahimsa website says. “There’s not a lot of gear, as there is with agility, and it doesn’t take a lot of space, like tracking does. It’s great for older dogs, puppies that have finished kindergarten, dogs with joint problems that can no longer run agility and even reactive dogs. It’s not just for particular breeds, either. No matter how big or small or smush-faced, your dog can do nose work.”
I had an advantage, however. As a hound, that’s what I’ve been bred for, and, as my many forays into many thickets will attest, I exhibit this trait in earnest. My nose is my calling card. I’m a dachshund Paladin: Have Nose, Will Travel…Wire Chloë Seattle.
My nose class met in the Ahimsa annex, across the street from my earlier Ahimsa classrooms. On the outside, the annex looked like any one of the many auto body shops and metal fabricators in the neighborhood. But inside, it’s a great space: large and open like a gym, with a cushy floor. It would be big enough for the Seattle Sonics to shoot baskets there, if there were Sonics.
In this class I didn’t get to interact as much with other dogs. All of our exercises had to be done one at a time, and when it wasn’t my turn I was either practicing off in a corner or in a strict down/ stay. Which pretty much meant that whether I was working or whether I was resting, I was getting lots of treats for doing the right thing. And getting treats is what really counts.
First I leaned to follow a scent…using treats, of course. First the treat went into a small box, and when I stuck my nose in the box I could eat the treat. Then it got harder; two or three boxes, turned over boxes, boxes on chairs. Then they put the treats into small containers with holes in the top, like a large pepper shaker. Then they closed the top of the containers, and then increased the number of boxes. No problem. Every time Mike told me to “Find It,” I did, and I got several pieces of cheese every time.
Between classes, we practiced. Mike hid containers in the house, in the yard and in the park. I found them and got the cheese inside. Then I learned how to find a specific scent (birch) instead of merely following food smells. I caught on quickly; I still got cheese at the end even it if wasn’t inside the container. After a lot of repetition and cajoling, I even figured out that I had to put my paw on the container instead of just touching it with my nose. First I thought this was superfluous, but eventually I learned to do it emphatically, my version of spiking the football after a touchdown. Yeah, baby, I found it! Where’s the treat?
I also wanted to give an official blog shout out here for instructors Adriane and Tamara for successfully training Mike and Heather to keep up their part of this new game. I could tell that it was touch and go at first for Mike, but now he’s getting better at it. I’ll make him stick with it, too.
Next up in the curriculum is Nose Work 2: Intro to Odor (love that name!), in which dogs learn to search for particular scents, starting with the birch essential oil that I’ve already been working with and moving on to others (might I suggest eau de rabbit, my favorite scent?). The class is also supposed to develop my drive to search (as if mine needs to be developed any further) and build teamwork with my masters. No doubt Mike and Heather can benefit from that. After all, as they learned long ago, “Suous cultores scientia coronat – knowledge crowns those who seek her.”¹.
¹Motto of Syracuse University