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Scent Detection – A fun activity for you and your dog

Are you looking for a fun activity that you can do with your dog that is inexpensive and easy to fit into your lifestyle?  Why not try Scent Detection?  This is an activity that is becoming increasingly popular, and unlike many dog sports, literally any dog can play, including dogs with physical challenges or issues working around other dogs.  You can use it simply as a game to play with your dog to enrich his or her life and build on your relationship, or you can challenge yourself by competing with your dog through one of the sport’s associations.  It is one of my favourite activities to do with my own dogs and I love sharing it with others and seeing the pleasure they get from playing this game with their dogs.

What is Scent Detection?
Put simply, in Scent Detection your dog searches for a specific odour and indicates to you when he or she has found the source of the odour, just like a professional sniffer dog finding and indicating when it’s found explosives, drugs or some form of contraband.   For sport, we train using essential oils.

Why play Scent Detection?
There are so many benefits to playing Scent Detection!  Here are a few of the main ones.

It’s fun!
You will learn so much about your dog because your role is to observe your dog and look for changes in behaviour as the hunt progresses.  We all know that our dogs can detect scent much better than we can but understanding Scent Detection will give you a glimpse into the very different world that our dogs live in and a new understanding of how they experience the world.  You can have fun thinking up new challenges and share your dog’s joy at success!

Any dog can play.
All dogs are born with the innate ability to use their noses, so all dogs have what they need to play Scent Detection.  While most dog sports require some level of physical soundness, Scent Detection is a low impact sport, which makes it suitable for dogs with physical challenges such as an injury or arthritis.  Blind and deaf dogs can play.  Tripods and dogs in wheelchairs can play.  No prior training of any kind is needed, so puppies to seniors can participate.  Also, many classes are set up so that dogs that have difficulty working around other dogs because of reactivity or sensitivity can also play safely.

You don’t need a lot of equipment and you can take it anywhere.
All you need to get started is a hide and some Q-tips that have been scented with the target odour.  You will also need to invest in a few new plastic containers that are dedicated to this game.  That’s it.  Once your dog understands the game, you can play it at home or play it outside.  You can place the hide in a container, around the home, in the garden, on your vehicle. You can play in public places such as parks.  You can even take your hide with you when you are traveling with your dog and play on the ferry, in your hotel room, in your friend or relative’s home, at the campsite, on your boat… really – almost anywhere!

Scent Detection lets dogs do what they do best.
Scent Detection harnesses our dogs’ natural ability to find and follow scent to its source: in nature, prey such as a rabbit and in Scent Detection, a hide containing a designated odour. They are doing what they are designed to do – hunt, but in a way that is appropriate in the human world they live in.  The activity of hunting is rewarding in itself for our dogs, and when they find the source of the odour, they get a big reward from their handlers.  From our dogs’ perspective, it’s hugely satisfying from start to finish!

Scent Detection provides an outlet for energy and stress.
Scent Detection harnesses natural hunting behaviours that are self-rewarding for our dogs.  Allowing them to express these behaviours is satisfying for them and can affect behaviour in other areas by releasing stress that can lead to undesirable behaviours such as destructiveness or hyperactivity.

Mental exercise is important!
Our dogs love to work and searching requires focus and analysis from the dog.  As our dogs get more proficient, we can increase the challenge by creating more difficult puzzles and searches for our dogs to figure out.  Mental exercise is as important as physical exercise and is even more tiring, and a tired dog is a happy dog.

It builds confidence.
When searching, our dogs are doing something we can’t do, which means that in this sport, our dogs are in charge.  For many dogs, this is a new experience!  When they understand their role, and have success after success, this builds confidence.  Scent Detection can help dogs to overcome anxiety and really feel good about themselves.

Scent detection is relationship-building.
Scent Detection is a team sport.  While your dog is in charge of the hunt, you are an integral part of the team because the ultimate reward comes from you.  It is an activity in which you are having fun together, meaning that you and your dog feel good about each other and look forward to the next session.

Final Thoughts
It takes a little bit of time to teach your dog what to look for and how to tell you he or she has found the odour source, but a little bit of time to set the foundation in place will give you and your dog a lifetime of fun.  It is easy to find two minutes, twice a day in your own home to practice at the beginning (and that is enough time to start).  The payoff is an enjoyable activity that allows your dog to express and rejoice in his or her natural abilities and promotes the bond between you and your dog.


Next Classes start in January 2023

Contact Us!

Would you like to find out more about Scent Detection and our Scent Detection classes?  Just give us a call or send us an email.  We’d love to hear from you!

[email protected]

(250) 713-5582