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Is Scent Work Good For Dogs?

Where Do You Take Your Dog For Nosework & scentwork ?


I love a good bit of scent work and it’s a great activity for your dog when off lead and also to do as a bonding experience and team player game.

I love to take my dogs to the field, sand dunes or beach and hide articles, then go find them with my dogs. It’s lovely to watch them sniff about rabbit holes and mouse trails, scenting out berries and roots to nibble on. It’s sheer joy for all of us. I will sit and watch the birds and clouds on a summer evening or the waves crashing on a stormy day. Dolphins leaping about after mackerel through the waves as the tide turns. Feeling breeze or bracing wind on my face. Oh my, I do live in an awesome place. Lucky me.

My dogs, in turn, will be grazing on some unsavoury scent ( to me that is, not them!), usually, rabbit dropping and snuffling about, looking up now and again to check on my whereabouts. I love watching the world go by and take in the smells and touches of the world around.

Dogs first see the world through their noses and we need to ensure those are joyous smells as much as possible. Just imagine all the lovely smells they can pick out in a super raw diet!

I like to get from A to B (from home to lovely destination) with an on lead walk to the car, an on a lead walk the other end to a place where we can just be and also play. I’m very fortunate where I live in the countryside all around and the beach close by. But, even if I lived in an area where there was a bigger population, I’d still walk from A to B, chopping and changing my speed and direction so they remain logged onto me and not dwelling on too much or only focussing on our eventual destination, where we do get to play and chill with ample sniffy time. What I wouldn’t do is let my dogs sniff from A to B checking out the opposition close by. I’m confident and don’t need them to gather info and write me the body language report of what’s up. In my mind, all is well, they need to feel me and smell me to gather that confidence in me, as the adult.

Where Is A Good Place To Do  Scent Work With Your Dog?

Scent work doesn’t have to be solely out and about either. Lots of things you can do in your garden or yard, hiding toys from them to find and return. I’m not a massive fan of popping food treats about in the house as this does lead to a dog ransacking your home and ripping up cushions etc. as the scent stays forever. There are great food puzzles that your dog has to work out how to open to get to a treat. Great brain work and nose work.

There is always a balance to be had when it comes to entertainment and activity. 25% to 30% of their day is great to have you doing things such as play, sniffy time, walking, massaging, feeding and grooming them, but it is equally important that they have downtime, time to relax, whether that be sitting by you, away from you but in the same room and time alone

Dog and Owner Scent WorkDo not overload your dog’s senses with too much activity and importantly scenting what may be interpreted by them as a negative. Ensure scent work and downtime is positive and in a location conducive to be able to achieve this.

Is Scent work Good For All Dogs ?

Is scent work working against you and your dog? There is so much to read and watch about scent work with our dogs in recent years. In my experience some dogs are getting too much and of the wrong scenting opportunities. On one hand, this is great but on the other by letting your dog grab all the finer details, where, you really have no idea about the info they are sifting through, it may be setting them up for a walk that is less than fun.

We know as humans that out and about is a communal territory and we are confident in where we are and those things that pass us by, people we meet etc. We’ve got years of experience stemming from childhood to be able to make educated decisions about everything around and about us. As we grew up we had a responsible adult guiding us away from our fears, holding our hands and keeping us feeling understood, supported and ultimately safe. We got used to whatever environment we grew up in, to then use that information to venture forth into the world on our own. But even then, if you find yourself in unfamiliar places, different smells, different cultures, some may become slightly nervous, some alarmed and others take it in their stride.

We expect a huge amount from our dogs, we expect them to happy go lucky. We feed them, play with them, rest with them and we expect that to be enough. We train them into doing what we as humans want, to be obedient to our wants and take less notice about how they are communicating their fears, their demands and likes with us. Your dog learns more about the world and you, when you are just being you and not the micromanaging obedience trainer or entertainer.

Let me explain my thoughts when it comes to our dogs and scent work.

Does Scent Work Help Aggressive And Nervous Dogs?

I often get called to see aggressive, territorial, nervous dogs and those just all over the top chasing everything that moves. These dogs have been given the opportunity to scent mark and sniff from the get-go too much and in the locations that send their sense into overdrive and off you. The second they walk out of the house, it’s nose down with prolonged sniffing followed by marking. Owners finding themselves standing about for what seems hours waiting for their dogs to do what they do best. Their dogs gather endless information from others urine, faeces, raw scent, dropped fur and saliva, left in their wake. The result is your dog completely logs of any focus towards you. Given then enriching scent work at home and if you can get in the car and go and find those places where they can have the opportunity to take time to enjoy the beautiful free happy scents.

 Paws For Thought “Enforcing Dog Problems”

If you tense a lead when anything approaches that you think may be an issue, you make it an issue. Walk away with your dog at 90 degrees and it’s no bother.

If you pull away and shout when they have their nose down on a scent, you’re making a big deal. They have no idea you can’t smell how they can.

Giving too much of any exercise brain or physical has the effect of sending your dog into overdrive.

Letting a dog do his own thing too soon before you’ve got a connection

How Do You Stop Your High Drive Dog Chasing Anything?

The high drive chaser will be scenting the wildlife and adrenaline rising to a point when they see the quarry run, then your dog is triggered into full flight in a second and there is nothing you can do about it. They’re off for the chase and many times that leads to the kill.

In order to have fun on both sides with scent work, you need initially to have a connection on lead and fabulous recall. You need to walk away from targets of their desire ( your dog is on lead) So for instance, your dog spots a rabbit, he stops, you turn him without a word and then run off with your dog and play find a toy. You then become the one thing that drives him. Moving on to a long line and doing recall and directional work back to you keeps him engaged and focussed on what’s important to you and then that become important to him. If you let your dog roam as a youngster or let off the lead in areas where there are the stimulus that excite him more than you, then you’ll get stuck, they will find fun away from you. Its then a really hard habit to crack once the hunt and chase drive is instilled.

Important to remember, that just because they are doing well with a connection to you at 3 to 12 months, doesn’t mean that they will do it at 18 months. Keep up the good work right through to adulthood and consolidate until 2 to 3 yrs old and you will have a connected dog for life.

Be your dog’s focus, be understanding and upbeat.

Don’t dwell on their drive, just work through them in locations where you both can relax and learn.

It is also important to understand that you can give a dog too much physical exercise and exposure to too much excitement. Do have a look here on how much is too much exercise for a dog?. Love the picture of the Boarder Collie here.

Be your puppies and dogs focus, be understanding and upbeat.

Work at a distance they and you can cope with, turning attention back to you and focusing on fun with you.

Be the centre of their universe.

Scentwork Is Awesome For Your Anxious DogToo !


Pick the right place where few dogs have ventured regulary, location is everything. Walk further into a park and not dwell around the trees and benches close to the entrance. Their reactions maybe less abvious than other dogs in that they slink about, look wary in some instances.

The anxious dog is also on a mission to check out who’s been where and when. Is it safe to proceed, how long ago was the adrenaline-driven, testosterone pumped male last in the vicinity? which way did he go? Are we safe to continue? or do I need to be on my guard? Do I actually think it’s safe to continue? You will notice that in some instances they will floor themselves and refuse to go any further than the front gate or the corner of the road or lamp post, even when things have seemed to be going swimmingly up to that point.

Anxious dogs may not even sniff for a prolonged time, but instead, take in an overview of the area, then pull ferociously hugging the side hedge or wall. Not only are they sniffing to find out about other dogs, they may be also on the sniff out for other prey animals, people, cars and so on, whilst also hearing noises that we will only tap into when the producer of said noise becomes infinitely closer. It’s about working out where, when and what had been about regarding their likes and dislikes, their fears and their joys.

So to ensure that the world about them is a good world with you, you need to do a walk with you through the crowded street or field ( by crowded I don’t necessarily mean, you can see the crowds, your dog will be smelling the crowded world of scent that passed days, weeks and months before). As much as a child or an adult cranes his neck to watch a possible threat /fear disappear or runs onwards to remove himself from that space, or backs away behind you or hides behind an object, or jumps into at the threat to challenge or check out. A dog will do exactly the same. We all have the innate sense to survive, to be safe and when that safety is compromised we use Flee, freeze, fight or ignore.

We are visual, our primary sense is our sight and we have to understand that the dog’s first sense is that of smell. If we stopped every second step and stared endlessly, people would wonder what was up, if we don’t engage with the one we walked with 75% of a walk then we’d be deemed rude and disconnected. Away in our own world and not engaging with anything or anyone around us.

Paws For Thought “ Feeding Anxiety In Dogs And Puppies”

Be your dogs and puppies focus, be understanding and upbeat.

Don’t dwell on your or their anxieties just work through them in locations where you both can relax and learn.

Do not flood with their fears

Work at a distance they and you can cope with

Be the centre of their universe.

If you are a pushover then how can they trust you when it really matters?

Dogs are social animals and they engage with each other dogs constantly, even when resting side by side, interested in the world about them and us, but more often than not we guide them into selfishness and they ignore us when we want them and engage only on their terms. This selfishness translates into a world of, if they can get what they want when they want, then they are the ones making decisions and training you to bend to their wants. So, if they are demanding ( you get subtle demanders to, those that creep up for a cuddle, as and when, but not come when you wish) and getting, when it comes to the important things in life like safety, they then have to take the lead or intervene.

Is Scentwork Good For Territorial and Aggressive Dogs?

This is much the same as for any dog, but this personality rather than prey driven or shrinking violets, take more alarming action that compromises other safety. As any dog, they gather the information by snorting and snuffling. With this information they become more vigilant, They are more forthright and as opposed to the sensitive anxious canine, they strut tall, tail in the air, looking around with confidence. Then they catch another scent, nose to the ground moving on swiftly to gather the next pager, pee-mail etc.

They have little regard for you at the end of the lead, you’re not there until you call for a momentary heel and follow. Then they are back on the job at hand.

Your dog has logged off you completely and disappeared into their own thoughts. Be together and be the one that they can trust through thick and thin.

With any Dog Breed (from a poodle cross to a pug to a hunting dog such as a Visla or labrador) or personality of a dog, I advise to walk away from scent marking, you’re not on a mission to case the joint and claim the claimed or unclaimed ground. You’re embarking on a positive and pleasurable experience. So walk through the crowded space of doggy markings and be engaging, your dog will still smell the scents and if any are alarming, you’re happy and positive and they will take that from you. Your dog mirrors you, we’ve heard that so many times and it’s so true. They mirror your emotions, they smell your fear ( adrenaline and cortisol) They smell your relaxed attitude BUT only if they are actually logged on to you.

If your dog is let to sniff for any length of time, on a smell he translates as a threat, then you are soooo not important at that time. Apart from the fact that you standing there with the lead in your hand are inadvertently saying…check it out, are we safe?

Paws For Thought “Feeding Aggression In Dogs”

Be your dog’s focus, be understanding and upbeat. Don’t dwell on their anxieties and fears.

Work with your dog in locations where you both can relax and learn.

Do not flood your dog with their or your fears

Work at a distance they and you can cope with.

Walk away from their drive to action, assertive, upbeat and positive.

Be the centre of their universe.

Six Points To Make Sniffy Scentwork A Positive Experience With your Dogs.

So yes, do go for scent and sniffy times, but do not make that the only thing you do.

Walk through the crowded smelly areas to a freedom sniffy time of lushness.

Choose your dog’s sniffy location wisely, ensure ( as best you can) that it’s in the centre of a park rather than the lamp posts and fence.

Use your dog’s nose to engage in a nose work game to find an article and bring it back.

Bury some dried liver treat for your dog and they can dig in the sand to find it. With your dogs raw food press it into a muffin tin so they really do get to enjoy the experience of eating a little longer. Here are a few other options to help your dog enjoy life to the full.

You don’t have to walk miles to exercise every day, engage his nose and you engage his brain in a thinking rather than reactionary manner.

There are great wooden puzzles you can set up at home so your dog has to work out how to open to get to a treat. Great brain work and nose work.

Enjoy your dog and embrace his nose skills being mindful of his reactions dependent if the scent scooting up those adorable nostrils. Be the person your dog needs you to be. The adult who makes great choices and guides them to make great choices in return.

By Caroline Spencer with Bella and Duke Raw Dog Food

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