Fun nosework with
Anne Lill Kvam
Weekend review by Nicole Mackie
ATTENDING the fun nosework weekend with Anne Lill Kvam from Norway was a wonderful learning experience for both the dogs and humans who attended. The weekend was hosted by Sheila Harper. I was honoured to be able to be there and spend some time getting to know Anne Lill and sharing experiences with her and Sheila over lunch at the local pub.
Anne Lill Kvam at the nosework seminar.
Anne Lill explained how nosework is so natural for dogs that they do not need to learn to do it. It is something they can already do without our help or intervention and if we give them the opportunity to develop their own olfactory senses they can find just about anything. The only training required of we humans is to be patient and trust our dogs.
Scent work is hugely stimulating and challenging for our dogs and they enjoy it because it is so instinctive for them. They can work for a long time doing nosework, while games involving running and playing can quickly tire, stress and wind up a dog, making it hard for them to settle afterwards.
The nosework was all reward based and the dogs always received a reward wherever necessary to encourage them. Many of the handlers were training instructors themselves or IDTS students (international dog training school students) taking notes as fast as they could write and many handlers were using the clicker for the tasks, which was very effective during some of the scent work depending on the dog and the task.
I was surprised to know just how well developed the dogs olfactory system is when Anne Lill explained that a dog can find two grains of sand on a beach 500 metres long, 50 metres wide and 50 cm deep. Amazing! We cannot begin to comprehend how well developed this sense is. A dog can also discriminate between so many smells on the ground and in the air, choosing one scent among dozens of others to follow.
One of the first tasks for the dogs to do was to come into the hall one or two at a time depending on the dog and find treats hidden around the room. At first many dogs lacked confidence and would not go too far from their owners. However after a few minutes in the hall with each treat the dogs found their confidence grew and most dogs were confidently finding treats all over the hall, ignoring people and other dogs, preferring to search for treats. The less confident or stressed dogs seemed to become calmer as they searched for the treats.
A lady with a blind dog was also given the opportunity to do the search work and the blind dog had no problem whatsoever in finding the treats hidden around the room. No matter what disability the dogs had or how young or old, all the dogs were able to use their noses and follow a scent.
The dogs were given plenty of rest between each task, especially the puppies, which gave Anne Lill the chance to explain the next step in search work and to show slides of search work and a little canine communication between themselves and other species.
Another task was for the dogs and handlers to have a go at learning to find keys. Good task to teach your dog if you always have trouble remembering where you last left your keys. All the dogs seemed to quickly catch onto this game and by the end of the weekend many dogs were retrieving the keys for their owners.
Naming objects was also a task we managed to fit into the weekend and this was done in the same way as finding the keys only different named objects were used. There was not enough time in the weekend to develop this task further but many of the dogs were soon retrieving socks, toys and other objects for their handlers.
The last task was tracking and most of the dogs and handlers also had a go at tracking human scent with a jackpot reward at the end of each track to encourage the dogs after their hunt. Tracking and scent work is part of the dog's hunting instinct, so therefore a reward at the end is necessary for the dog's self esteem. Even a 12-week-old puppy, who had never done tracking before, tracked a human scent and within a couple of minutes reached the reward waiting for him.
Over-all the weekend went extremely well and I am sure everyone went away with a lot learned and a lot to think about. I have already begun using some of Anne Lill's tips on stimulating scent work for my four dogs and I'm sure many others are doing the same after the weekend. I look forward to Anne Lill's return to the UK some time in the near future.