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The Advantages of Scentwork for Dogs and Their People



Scentwork stands out as a form of training that goes beyond the typical obedience classes, offering dogs a way to engage in activities that are closer to their natural instincts and needs.


This method of training is not just about following commands but about allowing dogs to utilise their inherent skills, particularly their sense of smell. It's a type of training that brings numerous benefits, both for dogs and their people, by promoting behaviours that are instinctual to dogs rather than solely focusing on commands that benefit humans.


Here, we explore why scentwork is a healthier and more engaging form of training compared to traditional obedience training.



Tapping into Natural Behaviours


Dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell, and scentwork training harnesses this ability. By engaging in scentwork, dogs are encouraged to use their nose to identify and locate a scent, a task that is both mentally stimulating and rewarding for them.


This form of training acknowledges the dog's natural capabilities and interests, offering a more fulfilling experience than traditional training methods that may not cater to their instinctual behaviours.

Dogs' olfactory capabilities far surpass those of humans. While humans rely primarily on their vision to navigate the world, dogs use their sense of smell to understand their environment. The anatomy of a dog's nose is intricately designed for smelling.


They possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to about six million in humans. Additionally, the part of a dog's brain that analyses smells is proportionally 40 times greater than that of humans.



This incredible biological design allows dogs to detect and differentiate an astounding array of scents, even those that are imperceptible to humans.


When a dog sniffs, they are not not merely inhaling odours but interpreting detailed information about their surroundings.


Dogs can detect specific compounds and subtle changes in scent, which tell them about the presence of people, other animals, food, and even the emotional state of those around them. This ability is what scentwork training aims to harness and develop.



Scentwork Training: Beyond the Basics


The process of sniffing and searching is inherently rewarding for dogs. It taps into their primal hunting instincts, providing a sense of purpose and fulfilment. Scentwork requires dogs to use their brains extensively, which can be more fulfilling than physical exercise alone. This mental workout is essential for their overall health, helping to reduce anxiety and behavioural problems caused by boredom or pent-up energy.



The Role of the Guardian in Scentwork

Guardians play a vital role in scentwork. They are not just passive observers but active participants in the training process.




Training begins with simple tasks, such as hiding a scented object in plain sight and encouraging the dog to find it. As the dog's skills improve, the challenges become more complex, involving hiding the scent in more difficult locations or introducing distractions.


This collaborative effort fosters a deep bond between dogs and their people. Success in scentwork depends on clear communication; guardians must learn to understand their dog's body language and signals that indicate when they have detected a scent or are close to finding the target. This mutual understanding enhances the relationship, making it more reciprocal and respectful.



A Holistic Approach to Well-Being


Scentwork is more than just a training activity; it's a holistic approach to a dog's physical and mental well-being.


By engaging dogs in a task that is both natural and stimulating, scentwork provides a constructive outlet for their energy and intelligence. It respects the dog's instincts and abilities, offering a more fulfilling and balanced approach to training.


We have a variety of Scentwork webinars in our library of NICE webinars.



Want to see our amazing speaker webinars but not quite ready to join NICE? Perhaps you're a dog guardian and would like to learn more but don't need a professional membership or to have CPD checked? That's fine, we want to make learning as easy and accessible for everyone. Join our webinar subscription today and get access to guest chats with all the most ethical dog people.



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