What dog activity is there for a dog that can rely on neither sight nor sound? It's called K9 Nosework, and Treasure is loving it! We are both looking forward to our first official nosework class starting this Saturday.
In preparation, I started introducing her to the activity at home in November. I had an old box that was headed to the recycling bin. I started feeding Treasure pieces of roast beef from inside the box. I wanted her to get used to putting her head down inside the box. And I wanted her to get the idea that boxes might have food in them, so it was a good thing to check them out.
Well, it didn't take long before she was actually climbing into the box with her front feet to look for more food. She does love to eat! I moved the box slightly ahead of her and she found it right away. After a few minutes, she was quickly finding the box and food as I moved it around the floor. By the end of her first session, she could find it from three feet away in various directions, with no help from me. She was almost getting to the box before I could even get it placed where I wanted it.
I did many sessions with the same box and different types of food. Before mealtimes, I even used some of her regular meal in the box. I put the box in different areas of the living room. She found it every time. I added more boxes - some with lids, some without, a few with tissue paper in the bottom, and some tipped on their sides.
I changed which box had the food inside and she always found the right box. She learned to push her head into and under the lids to see what was inside. Meanwhile, I very quickly discovered just how much Treasure loves this game! I didn't teach her to find food up off the ground, but due to the nature of living, there are many food smells up high - coffee tables, laps by the TV, refrigerator door left open, open dishwasher, counters, and so on. She can find them all!
I'm also discovering a lot about air currents and how smell travels. It's not always how I would expect. There was the time I thought Treasure was really close to the correct box but she seemed to be smelling something else, only to follow her into the kitchen to find there was food on the counter! Or the time I hid food around the far side of my bed and instead of going the way I thought was logical, she followed the smell under my bed to the other side.
So this week our game is to go back to just one or two boxes in new areas to prepare Treasure for working in class. I'm not expecting she will have any trouble. After all, food in involved!
What a wonderful activity for all dogs. It gives them something to occupy their minds and noses, something to do inside during the long winter months, and it doesn't require a lot of expensive equipment! And it gives dogs who might be at a disadvantage in other activities a chance to shine! Stay tuned for updates!