“Scents” of Freedom in the Shelter

February 15, 2015 | By More


In a shelter, dogs are rarely able to get all the enrichment they need: exercise, mental stimulation, playtime.  We cannot tire them all out with hikes or long walks on the beach.  So instead we hand out stuffed Kongs, and a few chews now and then to provide enrichment for them in their kennels.  We’ve accumulated a stash of puzzle toys to help keep them challenged and stimulated.  But, of course, being a non-profit, most of our toys are donated so we never seem to have enough.  So, we do the best we can with what we have.

There is something, however, which will provide mental stimulation, exhaustion, enrichment, fun, and costs nothing.   And it only takes minutes!  Are you aware of the sport of Nose Work? (see https://www.nacsw.net).   Recently the founders have shown us how to modify this as a “game” for our shelter dogs.  And what a hoot!  All you need to get started is a few empty boxes, a few treats and a few minutes spent with each dog.

When you enter the Nose Work area with a shelter dog, there is no signal necessary.  No cue is given, no information.  Nothing.  It’s just about the dog doing what a dog is gonna do…sniff!  He will investigate, fumble, learn, accomplish, reward, all by himself.  There may be a brief time on leash at the beginning, but even then the dog is still calling the shots.

Where else does that ever happen especially in a shelter environment?  A dog making his own decisions on how to explore the environment without any obedience commands, formal direction, or correction.  As Jill Marie O’Brien, one of the founders of K-9 NoseWork says, this is a chance to offer the dog total freedom of choice.

Who’s a good candidate for this?  How about the dog hiding in the back of his kennel, or the one who doesn’t know how to play, or afraid of men, loud noises, too scared to take a treat…the list goes on.  The fact is, any dog can benefit from this game.  The anticipation of the hunt, the freedom to explore, the sense of accomplishment…provide confidence, enrichment, and can even help strengthen the human-dog bond.

So, gather your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free… and let the games begin!


Nose Work classes are available to the public at Woods Humane Society through Gentle Touch Pets CNWI Betty Scattini.  For information go to:  http://www.clicknconnect.com/gtpt/

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