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The Canine Kingdom of Scent
The dog’s sense of smell is truly incredible; it is certainly one of his best attributes. The Canine Kingdom of Scent gives you the opportunity to work with your dog, using this amazing innate ability. Teaching your dog nosework – fun activities using your dog’s sense of smell – will be both entertaining and rewarding for all involved!
This book tells you everything you need to provide interesting and mentally stimulating challenges for both you and your dog. Author Anne Lill Kvam, graduate of the Turid Rugaas dog school, has worked with scent and discrimination dogs since the 1980s, having spent a three-year period in Angola teaching dogs and their handlers to detect land mines. She uses her expertise to offer guidance and advice on nosework, providing step by step instructions on nine different activities to teach your dog.
Chapter 1, The Kingdom of Scent, looks at the superior sense of smell that dogs have compared to us. Lill Kvam explains that dogs are capable of recognising molecules in as low a concentration as 10, meaning that on a 1500 foot long and 150 foot wide beach with 40 inches of sand, a dog is able to distinguish two grains of sand that smell differently.
Chapter two looks at how we can take advantage of this natural behaviour in training and in helping our dogs to live fuller lives. Lill Kvam explains that dogs in the wild will only resort to using their sense of smell if looking or listening for prey has not been effective, these being the favoured options as they conserve energy. Therefore when training the dog to do nose work it is important to eliminate these other components first.
Lill Kvam continues by looking at the benefits of nosework, explaining that in contrast to other activities we take part in with our dogs, it requires calm concentration and involves stimulation of several of a dog’s innate abilities. Nosework can help to strengthen and improve you and your dog’s bond, encouraging co-operation, trust, a more dynamic relationship, and perhaps most importantly of all, it is great fun!
In chapter 3, Lill Kvam gives us some advice on what you need to know to get started, explaining the importance of planning your training sessions, understanding how dogs learn through association and ensuring that your dog has sufficient motivation. She looks at using food as a reward, and provides us with a method for determining which treats our dogs like best, enabling us to use a treat ranking system when training. Lill Kvam also looks at how variable reinforcement and the use of jackpots (bumper rewards for particularly good behaviour) can help increase a dog’s motivation. She endorses the use of clicker training for nosework and explains the importance of not overdoing training, giving your dog regular breaks.
In the next section of the book, Lill Kvam introduces and explains games and exercises using nosework. She gives us detailed step-by step instructions on how to teach each one.
She begins with ‘Search for treats’, which is a game that encourages the dog to search for treats, small and large, either inside or out. This is a great exercise as it encourages the dog to use his nose, legs and brain in combination and will be both rewarding and mentally stimulating. It is also a great foundation from which to build to more complex exercises such as the search square.
The next exercise is ‘Hide and seek’, an exercise similar to that of search for treats but the dog is required to look for objects instead, ideally a favourite toy. Lill Kvam explains how we can add more to the exercise by teaching our dog to understand that ‘hotter’ means he is close the object and ‘colder’ that he is far away.
Lill Kvam then moves on to ‘Naming your dog’s toys’. In this exercise, you will teach your dog to recognise an individual toy by name and to be able to search out that toy, when asked, ignoring all other objects.
Chapter 7 introduces the ‘Square search’, which is the basis for teaching your dog to search for lost items. Your dog will learn to make a thorough search of an area, by completing a series of 150 ft long search paths. The search will end when your dog scents the item you have placed, picks it up and brings it back to you.
You will also find tips on not mistaking stress for motivation when the helper hides the object, and making sure your dog has a desire for the objects you are using, plus advice for those having trouble getting their dog to give objects back, how to avoid dependency on helpers and wind direction, and what to do when things go wrong.
Lill Kvam then moves onto finding lost keys and other items. In this exercise, she explains how to teach your dog to find a specific lost item and either bring it back to you or indicate they have found it by barking.
Chapter 9 focuses on the lost retrieve, an exercise similar to finding lost keys but in this case the dog will be able to find and return to you any lost item along a route that you have just travelled together. The chapter begins by teaching the retrieve before going on to provide step-by-step guidance on how to teach the exercise.
The next exercise is pancake tracking. This is teaching the dog an introduction to tracking, which Lill Kvam does by creating a track by tying a pancake, lamp chop or other delicious treat to the end of the rope, pulling it behind her, encouraging the dog to show interest in the item and wanting to follow the person.
Moving on from this is track training. Lill Kvam covers a number of aspects on the subject to enable us to learn and enjoy this activity that dogs are naturally adept at. Lill Kvam explains the three major components that make up the tracks our dogs can smell. These are broken up, disturbed ground and vegetation, the scent of the species that created the track, and what kind of individual laid the track. For example, if the track was laid by another dog, your dog can determine the sex, age, sexual status and health of that individual.
She continues by providing advice on equipment, motivation, trigger and payment, track laying, rewarding the dog and track training procedures. She also looks at the age and length of tracks as well as angled tracks, tracks walked on by others and teaching your dog to find where the track begins. Lill Kvam also provides some new challenges to add to tracking, such as laying tracks on a bicycle and tracks laid in the wrong direction.
The final chapter looks at scent discrimination, which is the ability to discriminate between smells or to pick out one scent from a number of others. It can be used to detect a large number of distinctive smells, such as, peanut traces in your food or even explosives in an airport. Lill Kvam explains that when teaching scent discrimination you must also teach your dog to report or mark the presence of the scent by behavior such as barking, scratching or lying motionless.
With exercises varying in difficulty, this book is suitable for either the complete beginner or most experienced competitor. The Canine Kingdom of Scent is fulfilling, fun and full of educational games!
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