For the love of a good nose ...


If anyone had told me a few years back that I might actually
working with a fearful and reactive dog,
I may have responded with an unrepeatable expletive or two.

The cautious soul attached to this nose is one of those types ... she is in perpetual conflict.
She actually  wants  to connect with others, but is afraid.
To clarify, Quinn is not an aggressive dog.  In fact, I don't think she has a
mean molecule in her whole body, but because she is so fearful of all things *new*
~ places, people, other dogs, you name it ~
she reacts, shall we say, inappropriately in comparison to a more balanced & secure dog. 

The saving grace for her, and dogs like her, is that she can get better with a little help.
And I am determined to do that for her.
Quinn is a beautiful, intelligent being with untapped potential.
Now, if she can only ditch some of those fears ...

Fortunately there are experts out there to show me/us the way
... FUN ways ...
to engage our dogs in activities that utilize some of their strongest assets while at the same time,
providing them the opportunity to be successful & more comfortable in their own fur.

So to answer the question from my previous post; where did I go on those early morning ferries?

To a room filled with boxes!
These boxes are the basic, but very important tools
used in teaching the introduction to K9 Nose Work.  Quinn and I took a fantastic workshop.

From the moment I first heard about this [relatively new] dog sport, I was intrigued.
Finding out that it is an especially beneficial activity for reactive dogs clinched the deal and I was
determined to have a go at it with my sensitive one.
This sport, geared towards the everyday dog owner, capitalizes on the same abilities
that are honed for professional search and rescue (SAR), explosives, or drug detection dogs,
yet puts it in a recreational setting.
To quote from the K9 Nose Work website:

Dogs have an amazing sense of smell and a natural desire 
to hunt.  The activity and sport of K9 Nose Work is designed
to develop your dog's natural scenting abilities
by using their desire to hunt and their love of toys,
food and exercise.  It's a great way for your dog to
have fun, build confidence, and burn lots of
mental and physical energy.

Our room was divided so that the working dogs were separated from the audience.  Just a few
upturned tables were enough of a barricade to prevent any dog from worrying about
who was out there watching & to keep their nose on the task at hand ...
to sniff-and-find which "food box" held the treats.
The dogs worked one at a time, entering through one door, leaving by another
 and were always out of sight of the other dogs.
This protocol was about keeping our dogs as comfortable, safe, and happy as possible.

Jill Marie O'Brien, co-founder of K9 Nose Work, guided our workshop with great humor
and a profoundly gentle manner.  Her understanding of canines amazed me.

Here, Jill is working with Ready ~ what a little spitfire!  Ready has been at this sport
for a while so she was FAST with her scent detection.  See that piece of red fabric
tied to her halter?  That's to signal that she's a reactive dog
and needs her personal space.  Quinn wore one, too ... 

Ready "owns" Lisa Holt & her husband, Skip (there by the door).
Lisa, owner of San Juan Island Dog Training in Friday Harbor, was the organizer of this event
 and happens to be one of the strongest advocates for reactive dogs that I have ever met. 
I cannot count the number of times I have heard her say, "Honor your dog."

This is Emi ~ sweet, dear Emi is extremely shy ... careful & a little skittish ... 
quite deliberate with all her movements and searching.  Her person, Carol,
told me that Emi has already come a long way to overcoming her reticence through Nose Work.
In the beginning, Emi would not even put her face into a box.

Jill has an uncanny instinct for knowing what each dog needs
and gauges her own movements accordingly.

By the end of Day One I was exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time.  So much new
information to take in!  Quinn had done well, handled herself in some typical 
shepherd dog ways (such as having to check out the entire perimeter before feeling safe enough
to get the scent out of a box) and I learned so much more about how to work with  her  needs ...
like giving her lots of chances to be around people without a lot of pressure,
let her have the distance she needs, that there's no reason she has to be close to people
if she's uncomfortable.

There was ONE AMAZING MOMENT that day that will stick in my mind forever.
Jill was crouched on the floor shifting the boxes around;  Quinn circled by her, turned,
and then proceeded to give her a thorough face-washing for no apparent reason at all.
My dog ... who is scared of strangers ... slow to warm up ... keeps a safe distance ...
kissed Jill all over her face!
Jill said it was because, "I was ignoring her, asking nothing of her..."

Oh.  Oh my.  Thank you for teaching me that.

On Day Two, Quinn got to stay home & I headed over to audit 'Introduction to Odor,'
the next learning phase in this wonderful sport.  Here the dogs work outside around vehicles
and hunt for the target odor canister.  It's a joy to watch dogs of all sizes enjoying this sport.
Above is Allie, co-trainer at  SJI Dog Training, with her cute-as-a button "short stuff," Kylee,
who's just found the scent on the rear bumper ...

and Lisa with Ready, just making a quick U-turn after she caught the uphill whiff
from that silver canister.  The handlers are taught to stay back,
to let the dogs problem solve on their own.
Every dog appeared to LOVE doing this kind of sniffing.

As for this one, well miz Quinn,
we're gonna let you take that nose as far as YOU want to go.

As for me, I certainly hope we have the opportunity to work with Jill again some day,
to show her (hopefully) how far we've progressed.

Till then, we'll be savin' up some whale bones for ya, Jill!


LINK to a terrific article about the sport:  The dog's nose knows this is a blast
LINK to a short video:  canine Nose Work in action
LINK:  K9 Nose Work website


  1. What a fun and interesting post. Seems to me that both you and Quinn were lucky to have found each other.

  2. what a great post. i just learned so much. i know next to nothing about dogs. Quinn sure is lucky to have found you.

  3. Wonderful post, Christi. We have a similar pup, Kalie. She came to us at 3 and we have learned so much from listening to her.
    Dogs speak a language, that for those of us willing to listen, is without peer.
    Yay, Quinn!

  4. Hi Christi. I love your determination and commitment to Quinn. What a wonderful way to bond with a friend, too.
    xx, Carol

  5. Great story, Christi--how little we really understand about dogs (and animals in general)...it is obvious the workshop is as much to train and educate people as it is for the animals! What a great concept. We will all be tuning in to see how Quinn evolves over time: I wouldn't be surprised if she turned into a love bunny.

  6. What a fabulous post!
    I'm sure Quinn had a blast and learned lots and lots.
    As to the face licking....I'm sure dogs know exactly who is on their side.
    Greetings from New York
    and from Buster.

  7. tears to my eyes. hugs to you and Quinn (YOU give'em. I'll stand way over here. xo)

  8. This is great!
    I swear dogs know every thought in our head.
    It's so hard to calm your thoughts of the concern you feel towards them to give them peace of mind.
    Same for kids actually.

  9. I just want to send out a very special *** Thank You *** to everyone for all the kind words you've left here. As you can probably tell from my [fairly] regular dog posts, I am a complete & utter SAP when it comes to my canine girlies. They are both such teachers and I am a better person for knowing them & having them as companions in my life. What I've learned [am still learning] is that because of the obvious language barriers between our species it can take quite some time to understand one another. It's easy to push them around, direct them to my wants all the time ~ but do I really want to force that onto them? My dogs have their own entirely individual personalities ... really beautiful, if I take the time to just pay attention.

    Your visits here are always so welcome ~ best to all ~ woofs n' wags all 'round!!

  10. I'm not sure who is more amazing YOU or Quinn. Well done to you both. Gizmo, Tobie and I are all proud of you!
    And while noses are great - there is NOTHING better than fuzzy lip doggy kisses!

  11. This is a fascinating post! Although I'm not so much a "dog person," I am totally an "animal person," and I love the idea of showing them respect, seeing what is natural and comfortable for them, and allowing them the space to be who they are. I'm looking forward to meting Quinn one of these days.