Battersea Q&A: Is scent work ideal for my sniffer dog?
(Q) New year, new dog - well, maybe not, but I am interested in trying some new activities with my dog. Would a scent work workshop be a good idea?
(A) Battersea canine welfare trainer Nathalie Ingham says: Expanding your best friend's horizons - or, in this case, his scent world - is a great idea.
Dogs love to be set achievable challenges, and really benefit from a good brain workout. Physical exercise is a must, of course, but mental stretches also contribute to your dog's well-being.
So, what is scent work, and what will your dog get out of learning it? All dogs love to sniff. Dogs have, on average, around 40 times as many scent receptors as humans, so they smell the world rather than just see it. Scent work uses this sophisticated sense of smell to teach dogs how to sniff out target odours.
Typically, inexperienced sniffers will start their training by hunting out high-value treats, like cheese or liver, before moving on to scents like birch, cloves or star anise, with a successful find rewarded with praise or a treat.
Professional sniffers like the dogs who work for the UK Border Agency (and this includes Battersea dogs who are more suited to a working home, who we place through our Service Dogs programme) can detect drugs, explosives, money, or even hidden humans.
But your dog doesn't have to be a career scent worker to get lots of fun and enjoyment out of a workshop. You can learn with toys too, and as well as forging a closer bond with your dog you'll be teaching him a new skill, building his confidence, and working him mentally and physically.
The National Association of Canine Scentwork is the body which oversees nose work training, and when you're looking for a class you should try to find a certified scent work instructor.