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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thankful Thursday - Shyla's Progress with her Fears

As I mention sometimes here, Shyla and I started nosework to help her learn to cope with her fears. At the beginning, we did every single search at home, an environment where she's usually confident. Nosework adds to that because Shyla is the leader during a search. I help a bit by guiding her but she's the only one who can find the source of a scent (I sure cannot!).

The idea was to help her build a very positive "conditioned emotional response" to nosework. That meant that she'd become conditioned to feel confident and happy when we did nosework. Then, when we took nosework on the road, the hope was that she'd feel equally confident and happy even in situations that used to scare her.
Shyla is usually very happy and confident near our house
We've taken baby steps toward this goal because one bad experience in a scary setting can erase the hundreds of good experiences with nosework at home.

Well, I really think that it's working. Yesterday, I took Shyla to a site where we did lots of counter-conditioning and socialization years ago to try to help her overcome her fears. There's a busy road next to the site, and she used to startle whenever a louder vehicle went by. There's a smaller road very close to the site, and the cars going slowly there used to scare her too.

Yesterday's search went better than I could have dreamed. I hid 4 scent sources, 3 on the picnic tables and 1 on the tree to the right of them. I made a short video of her search. You'll see only one fear-related glitch at 52 seconds or so in the video. She was heading for the scent on the tree when a car went by slowly on the smaller road. She stopped to stare at it, and she forgot about the scent on the tree. It took her another 45 seconds to come back to the tree and find the scent.

In the video, each time you hear me say "alert", Shyla has just done her typical "nose on the source" indication of the odor source. I go in and give her treats as close to the source as I can. Then, I ask her to "find another", which means to go find a new source (not the same one again).

Here's the video. I hope that you enjoy seeing the two of us having fun in town doing nosework. I actually never thought that Shyla would "have fun in town" but she did yesterday!


  1. Hari OM
    Fabululous work, the both of you! YAM xx

  2. Great idea and positive response - Bravo :)

  3. Great job Shyla! You are lucky to have such a great mom to help you become so confident.

  4. One of my friends has a very fearful dog who she has doing nose work but said she would never compete. Well, she is still fearful as ever in every day life, but she just passed her NW2 and in a location she had never been to 5 hours from home, including an overnight in a hotel. She has moments too in her searches where she gets fearful, but the more she works on it, the quicker she gets back to work and is able to work through things. It is truly amazing to watch as you know too. This sport is so awesome for so many reasons! We are nose work addicts at our house!

  5. I think the road is quite noisy, and Shyla is doing so well in what once were scary places. Looks like it was a bit cool out there!!!

  6. She looks so happy searching.

    Love nose work. We've been using it to work Honey's brain on the boat because it's so rainy and miserable to give her long exercise times off the boat.

    Besides Shyla having a positive association with nose work, I believe that the concentrated sniffing changes the brain in some way. No scientist, but I would be willing to bet it affects dogs brains similarly to how exercise affects humans.

    Hope Shyla continues to grow in her confidence.

  7. Great work...on the nose and with her confidence. Bravo!

  8. Way to go Shyla, we are proud of you sweet girl!

  9. We loved watching your tail wag as you were searching, Shyla. We love it when you're happy☺

  10. Doesn't it just make your heart sing when a dog works/plays happily in a challenging situation! You and Shyla have come so far!

    Chris from Boise

  11. she is amazing, I would not have thought of using the scents like this to make her feel safe, it makes sense though. so glad she is doing better with the traffic, it was noisy, I could hear the cars and she hears better than me. I love the games you play with your dogs, I forgot to mention how amazing it was to me that R could go backward out of the chairs, the front I get but the backing out looks hard to me.

  12. This is so great! I love how you both are enjoying it so much too. I need to get back into doing nose works with Luke too. It's so fun to see them using their noses, and I'd also love to try tracking with him.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

  13. Shyla has come a long way with your help! Great work Shyla!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  14. It's amazing how far she's come! I loved watching her in the video. I really want to try this with Nola.

  15. We love watching the two of you working and playing together. You make a super team.


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