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Nose Work Builds Confidence for
Success in Obedience

by Roberta Vitols, a client at Gentle Touch Pet Training

Penny has been following her Nose all her life. It has taken her on many exciting journeys, chasing squirrels, deer, mice, and countless nameless critters.

While I privately marveled at this talent, there didn’t seem to be a role for me other than to admire her skills as an observer. So, I introduced her to other activities, such as taking walks, playing with toys, learning about Agility, Obedience, Herding, and Freestyle. She "tried out" these activities with mild interest, reserving her enthusiasm for just being with me, despite the particular ‘sport’ at hand.

We were the most successful at Rally Obedience and, finally, traditional Obedience. Nevertheless, Penny became increasingly distressed about the Judge following us around the ring. During practice sessions, she kept her eye on the practice Judge, even though they were familiar to her.

One day, we were competing in the obedience ring doing our off-leash heeling. Penny gave a frantic look toward the Judge and ran out of the ring.

I knew it was time to "take a break," to see if I could find a way to build up her confidence.

Well, sometimes when one door closes, another one opens. For Penny and I, it was Nose work. We enrolled in a class just starting at Gentle Touch Pet Training. Penny loved everything about it. She loved class, she loved practicing with the boxes, she loved the searches inside or outside. She loved showing me that she knew what she was doing, and she loved sharing her successes with me.

After completing two 6-week sessions of Nose Work, I decided to practice obedience activities with Penny, just to see what she would do. To my surprise she waltzed around the ring, tail held high, following my directions, happy as she could be. Everyone who watched marveled at this new, happy, confident dog. They asked me what had brought about this change.

Penny and I know what transformed an anxious and fearful dog into a confident and focused working dog. It was Nose Work; a sport that draws on her instincts. She knows what to do to find the scent. She is focused on the "hunt" despite what is happening elsewhere around her.

It is Nose Work that has made it possible for her to forget her anxiety about the Judge following her, and to finally complete the requirements she needed to earn her Companion Dog title in Obedience.

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