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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Positive Training - Canine Nosework!

This has been a good week. Shyla is slowly moving toward normal or perhaps a new normal, as my expectations shift. We've had tons of fun together, playing in our April snow!

I can't help but smile as I look at this happy photo of her doing a recall!

Throughout Shyla's epilepsy and medication odyssey, we've kept doing her nosework. When her brain was the most addled by phenobarbital (anti-seizure medicine), I made her nosework searches very easy. Now, she's ready for bigger challenges because her brain and motivation both seem very sharp.

One of the reasons why I love nosework is that it builds Shyla's confidence. I'm going to show you a video of a search in which she worked totally independently of me but never gave up on the tough puzzle of figuring out where the scent was.

In the video, she was doing a search for two scent sources. At the start of the video, she'd just found one, and she was starting to search for the second one which was about 20 yards uphill of the one that she'd just found. Truly, my only role in this search was to video her and give her rewards when she found the source!

Her independent competence is what helps her to feel more confident in the world. She doesn't always need me to help her! One of my instructors suggested letting Shyla do more of her nosework off-leash to help build her confidence. I think that it has worked wonders!

Nosework is a classic example of what you can do with positive training. We started nosework with very simple little games where I'd have the scent in one hand and treats in the other hand. She had to learn to put her nose on the scent and hold it there for me to give her any treats. From that simple foundation, we built up to the kind of search in the video where she was dealing with very complex air currents - and needed to interpret them to get to the source.

Here is the video which you can watch here or at Youtube.

The video is titled "Pooling Odor" because that second scent source was in the sunshine, doubtlessly heating up. When a scent (or gas) heats up, it rises. In the case of this search, I think that the scent had mushroomed up into the tree canopy above it and then fallen down into the "stuff" under the trees, like our snow blower, sleds, and lawn chairs. So the scent was "pooling" away from where the source was, and Shyla figured out where the source was hidden despite that trick!

There's more going on inside that brain than most of us can imagine, especially when it comes to smells!
Happy Positive Training!


  1. I'm so glad that Shyla's still been able to do nosework! You can tell just how happy it makes her!

  2. I am so glad to see a happy Shyla and we're sure happy she is enjoying that nose work!

  3. so glad she can scent again and she looks so happy hunting for the scent.

  4. You are so focused, Shyla! We love watching you work!

  5. Happiness everywhere. Still "heaps" of snow, literally and figuratively. Wonderful to see Shyla back doing nose-work, and her tail wagging.

  6. Hoomans cannot even imagine how intense our sniffers are! Glad Shyla is adapting to her meds!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  7. So much fun to watch Shyla having fun too!!!

  8. I love this video, Shyla makes it look so easy and fun! We did our first extreme-basic-nose-class this past Thursday. It was just the intros, no dogs (that's this week). I'm excited to take Bo, but have to admit to a tiny-bit skepticism about how it'll end up for us.

  9. Great job, Shyla! It's so good to see her enjoying herself. We had taken a bit of a break from our nose works, but started up again this last week. Both Luke and Cricket did great, it was like they never had those weeks off! It also reminded me of how much I enjoy it. I look forward to taking the 2nd nose works class at Fenzi, hopefully this summer. Luke especially is ready to move forward.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

  10. Pawsome job, Shyla! Sam would spend maybe a nano-second before his ADHD brain kicked in and he'd be off writing pee-mails. And he isn't on phenobarbital! 😇

  11. OMD, that is PAWSOME GURL!!!! I am so happy that the meds have worked and stabilized the drowsiness effect. Still keepin' my paws crossed for you!!! Man, I thinks Ma needs to do this with me, cause anything with treaties....☺
    Ruby ♥


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