There are few things more awe-inspiring to me than watching a dog with a job.
Whether the task at hand is herding livestock, assisting a disabled person, or searching rubble for signs of life, dogs take their work seriously, completing the job with laser focus. And they do it all for a good belly rub!
Perhaps the most classic job for dogs (other than farm dog) is that of a tracking dog. You can probably picture it now—a bloodhound hot on the trail of a criminal or searching for a missing person. It's a scene portrayed in movies for decades, but tracking isn't just for actors and police dogs.
The Nose Knows
Every dog is capable of harnessing his or her “nose power,” and nose work is a fun, family-friendly activity that can strengthen the human-animal bond while instilling confidence in your dog.
Giving your dog a job (even if it seems like a game to you) does more than just give him a sense of purpose—it actually makes him healthier! In this particular case, nose work trains your dog to use his nose to track down objects based on scent. This engages your dog's mind as well as his body.
As an added bonus, if there’s one thing your dog could possibly love more than eating and sleeping, it’s hanging out with you, so this activity is win-win.
The First Step to Sniffing
You can't expect your dog to be an expert at tracking and nose work right away. His instincts are good, but they're not THAT good. You'll want to start slow when you introduce this new work to him.
Gather several cardboard boxes and scatter them about. Start by letting him watch you put a small morsel of his favorite treat under one of the boxes and then take him to the box and let him enjoy the treat.
The next time you hide a treat under the box, let him watch you, but then let him attempt to find the treat himself. This work can slowly progress until you are able to hide the treat without him watching, and he'll find it because his nose knows.
The Fast Track to Success
Much like agility and obedience work, there are classes that focus on nose work or tracking so you can master this fun skill and compete against others (if that's your thing). If your family enjoys less competitive activities, you can set up tracking courses around your yard or a nearby park and track just for fun.
Anything that gets your dog’s mind and body working is a boost to his overall health, and you may just find that while you're out there working a field with your furry companion, you're getting a mental and physical boost yourself. Like I said, win-win!