Episode 35 – Scent Work For Pet Dogs with David Davies

Episode 35 – Is your dog’s nose always getting him into trouble? Does his nose regularly take him away from you at the park? Why are dogs obsessed and so good at finding every half eaten sandwich, stinky pile of fox poo and dead rotten fish they can find? Well today’s guest David Davies has the answer. Dave shares the secrets to getting your dog more interested in you by using his nose and he shows you some simple scentwork games you can play with your own dog, today!


[.29] Dom is joined by Alex and Sidney Cocker [1.27] Alex is a busy video guy [2.03] Todays guest is the legendary David Davies [3.13] Why is scentwork so important for dogs [3.41] How your dog sees the world (or smells it) [4.30] How your dog tracks his way to the park each day [6.14] How can keep your control of your dog using his nose. [7.47] How to make your dog as interested in a tennis ball as he is in a pheasant or rabbit [9.04] Introducing Hamish [9.45] How to charge your dog up and convince him you are fun to be with [11.25] Step by step teaching your dog how to ‘Find it’ [14.56] Why you shouldn’t push your dog and take him out of his comfort zone [16.00] How awesome was that! [16.22] SPECIAL OFFER for Dom’s Fun Nosework for Dogs Mini Course go to www.mydogssuperhero.com/noseworkoffer  [18.00] Don’t forget to leave a review on ITunes.

Dom:     Hello me bonny bairns and welcome to the Superhero Dog Owner’s Show. I’m your host Dom Hodgson. I’m joined by Alex the video guy.

Alex:      Hello.

Dom:     I’m also joined by Sidney Cooker. Here he is the little guy.

Alex:      Fresh from the groomers.

Dom:     Yeah, he’s had his hair all chopped.

Alex:      I’ve had haircut also since last time actually.

Dom:     You have actually. I did notice that but the viewers Alex are only interested in Sidney Cooker.

Alex:      I know. And that’s fine.

Dom:     Sorry to say. We’ve still got a little bit of a quiff going on there. We’re looking good. You can see all of his lovely muscles. Clever boy. And he’s a little bit hot so we’d better keep this brief. Sidney’s been busy lately, we’ve been bust because we just last week got back from one of our seminars at WaggaWuffins.

Alex:      Yes, which was often.

Dom:     It went down really well. Sidney was a really good demonstration dog for me. I’m sure Alex will be playing a little bit of B roll footage over the top of this of-

Alex:      Of course.

Dom:     -Sidney doing his stuff now. And so yeah, we’ve been busy with that. We’ve been busy with- what else have you been busy with Alex?

Alex:      I’ve got a few kind of big gigs coming up soon. A few events, so one of them being yours obviously. But yeah a few more that are carbon copies of that in some different kind of industries. Lots of people coming down and stuff where they want the whole thing recorded. A couple of them, one of them is in Ireland, one of them is in Poland. So excited for those, getting my head around how I’m going to pack all of my gear into like two bags and stuff. Yeah so lots of good stuff.

Dom:     Excellent, excellent. Culmination of a lot of hard work as well, so well deserved.

Alex:      Yes, thank you thank you.

Dom:     You’re welcome, you’re welcome. So in this week’s episode of the podcast Alex, we are going to have a video. And we’re going on location. We’re going to go back to Hurworth and see my dog training mentor David Davies.

Alex:      The legend himself.

Dom:     Yeah so what happened was Dave did a, Sidney… The people can’t see you. Dave did a scent work masterclass inside of my inner circle, which went down really well. And this is kind of an edited, shorter, highlights version of that, yeah? So Dave is going to show up how and why you should be doing scent work with your dog and how any dog can do it, and because it’s just really really good fun, you know? And it’s quite appropriate that we’ve got Sydney here because Sydney is a little bit of a scent work specialist as well.

Alex:      He is, yes.

Dom:     So without further ado Alex would you kindly press the button and press play.

Alex:      Yes.

Dom:     Hello everybody. So we’re back with Dave today because we’ve been talking about the different activities that you can do with your dog and Dave is a scent work expert in my opinion. He’s taught me everything I know about scent work and how to teach my dog find it games and tracking and all that kind of thing. So Dave, you’re a big exponent of using scent work with your training clients I know, aren’t you as well?

Dave Davies:      Yes.

Dom:     When they come round. Why do you love it so much and why is it so effective?

Dave Davies:      Because it’s something that’s very natural, instinctive for a dog to do. A dog uses it’s nose every single day, even if you’ve got a greyhound watch it using its nose. And it’s an important outlet for a dog. And I don’t think people realise just how much of an important outlet it is. You know, when people turn up at a new location most people will look about them and then they might go “Oh what’s that nice smell” or “what’s that horrible smell” and then they might investigate with their eyes. A dog doesn’t really do that. A dog will turn up and go [sniffing 00:03:45] “what’s that smell?” It’ll turn, first into the breeze and [sniffing 00:03:49] will stand there sampling the smells. And then when it smells something interesting it might start to have a little look or a listen to see what’s going on.

But it uses its nose. And it’s probably this that gets so many dogs into trouble, particularly those of you that own beagles or harriers or similarly related scent hounds. These dogs go out and they get a scent, their nose full of a smell, and they just start following it. The vast majority of people who complain their dogs pull when they’re walking them on the road, if you actually look at them, I bet quite- I’ve never done statistics so I don’t know, but I bet quite a few of them the dog won’t be pulling because it’s afraid or pulling to get to the part where it knows it’s going to get let off lead as soon as it gets there. It may be doing any of those things, but quite a lot of them they’ve got their nose down, they’re following the footsteps of somebody or something else that’s walked that footpath ahead of them. And that dogs tracking, it’s following the foot fall of somebody or something that’s walked there ahead of them and left that particular person or thing’s scent on the ground.

And the dog is following it. So you think about dogs when they’re out in a field somewhere. You let them off and they go hurtling off. And in the absence of anything else they’ll run out there and then suddenly their nose will go down and then you’ll see them won’t you? Sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff, and you call it and you get no reaction from the dog. It’s not being disobedient, especially if it’s a hound it can’t evn hear you. It’s so engrossed in the smell and it’s learning that smell. It’s going “[sniffing 00:05:21] is that a smell? Now last time I smelled that smell I looked around and saw a thing that they all call a rabbit and when I chased it that was really fun, so where’s the rabbit?” And now- if you don’t get your dog back to you you’re going to lose it because it’s going to go off after the smell of the rabbit, or if it sees a rabbit it will chase it from the association of the smell and what happened last time.

So we have to have an outlet for our dog’s instinctive or natural behaviours. We need to give them- like having a gerbil. You can’t keep a gerbil in a cage and not leave it somewhere where it can dig, that would be cruelty. It needs to dig. And your dog needs to dig as well, by the way. But your dog needs to use its nose and most dogs, pet dogs are not allowed to use their nose properly. So when they get the opportunity, they go overboard and get themselves into trouble.

Dom:     So what can people do to- because that’s a situation I think everybody’s found themselves in-

Dave Davies:      Oh yes.

Dom:     -where they let their dog off. With the Dog Adventure business I have a couple of pointers and stuff and I’m always having to keep them interested in me because of pheasants and different things.

Dave Davies:      Yes.

Dom:     What can people do to get their dog- to try and control their nose a little bit more so that they can get their dog focused on them?

Dave Davies:      Probably the worst thing they can do- I realise this isn’t what they can do, but the worst thing they can do- because a lot of people do this. And they’re thinking down the right lines, and say “I’ve got a pointer, I’ve got a spaniel, I’ve got a Labrador, it is a gun dog. It is designed for smelling out game.” So this is what they let their dog do. The difference is, the gun dog trainer or the guy who goes shooting will have his dog or her dog properly trained before they do that. It’ll certainly be trained in obedience, or I prefer to use the term reliability, in terms of the dog coming back to you or the owner rather than just hurtling off. So letting your dog do this, and then it puts a rabbit up or a pheasant or something and chases it, nothing is going to be more exciting to that dog than what it’s just done. So worst thing you could do-

Dom:     [crosstalk 00:07:24]

Dave Davies:      Absolutely. Worst thing you can do is let your dog do that or start training it as a gun dog trainer might on the scents of these creatures. Totally different. What we need to do as pet dog owners is teach our dog to do all these things, but for something we control 100%. So if you can get your dog as excited over a tennis ball bearing your scent- which bears your scent if you’ve handled it by the way- and don’t leave it with a tennis ball because it will chew it and that can hurt it. A tennis ball is a great training aid because you know your dog could destroy it, and if it destroys it it will swallow it and it can hurt itself. So you’re never going to leave your dog with a tennis ball, are you? So therefore it’s going to become a great training aid which you can put in your pocket. As long as you’ve got that in your pocket your dogs going to want it so you’ve got your dog’s influence.

Now if you can get your dog wanting to hunt a tennis ball, which you can start off by just throwing a tennis ball and letting your dog chase it, getting it to bring it back to you. “It won’t bring it back to you,” I hear you say. Then put it on a long line and teach it to or have a second tennis ball or use a bit of food or run backwards from your dog. These things will all be able to help you encourage your dog to come back to you. Once your dog starts to learn that if it shares the tennis ball with you, the game recommences it would have to be quite a stupid dog to not realise giving you the tennis ball was actually a very good thing. And then you’ll get the dog coming and pestering you, pushing you, giving you the tennis ball. So we can do these things.

Dom:     Shall we get one of your dogs out here with someone [crosstalk 00:08:50]

Dave Davies:      Absolutely, why not? A picture paints a thousand words.

Dom:     Definitely yeah, that would be good fun. Brilliant.

So we’re back. Dave’s had a change of attire. He’s gone all commando on me now and we’ve got the lovely little Hamish with us.

Dave Davies:      Certainly are.

Dom:     There he is. Hamish has got his prized possession, the special tennis ball that we were talking about just before. So Dave when people at home, they want to have a go at a bit of scent work, the dog [inaudible 00:09:15] doesn’t necessarily have to be a tennis ball, this could be anything that they-

Dave Davies:      Anything the dog wants.

Dom:     Yeah exactly. So what would be the first thing they should do? Should they go off straight away and hide the toy or?

Dave Davies:      No I wouldn’t. They could but I prefer to- so imagine Hamish is brand new and I’m just starting him off from scratch, okay?

Dom:     Yeah.

Dave Davies:      I’m going to play with him with this tennis ball. And just play little games that anybody would probably play with their dog. Just getting their dog- Hamish, Hamish spin. Just getting their dog doing. Spin, roll over, Hamish forwards, backwards, forwards, jump. Just getting the dogs doing things and rewarding it with a game. Here, Hamish. Here. Hamish. Just rewarding it with games with that tennis ball, see?

Dom:     And that’s going to- what’s that going to do?

Dave Davies:      It just makes the dog see that’s fun.

Dom:     I see.

Dave Davies:      Okay? And make it see that you are fun as well. Then what I’m going to do is play a little fetch game. So why people feel the need to show their prowess at throwing a ball as far as they can. It’s going to tyre the dog out, which is great if that’s what you want to do, and it’s going to tyre them out as well, and they’ll probably end up losing the ball. So why not? Let’s just say Hamish wait there. Hamish, if I can get the lead off your head.

Hamish, find it. Good boy. Hamish. Because- Hamish, come here. Because find it is the cue I’m going to use so why would I say “fetch” to my dog here and then “find it” when I hide the toy. I’m just going to confuse the dog. Reality is I probably do do that sometimes.

Dom:     We all do.

Dave Davies:      But you don’t need to. You just want to keep as few commands as you can for your dog.

Dom:     And playing a short retrieve like that, it rewards your dog a lot more doesn’t it?

Dave Davies:      Of course it does, yeah.

Dom:     [crosstalk 00:11:01] and interrupting them and stuff.

Dave Davies:      The more it gets rewarded, the more the dog is enjoying it. So now what we’re going to do is make it a bit more challenging. So I’m going to get the tennis ball in some nice flowers or weeds or whatever they are over there, and I’m going to aim to throw the tennis ball out of sight. So showing him the tennis ball.

Dom:     And you want Hamish to see that, yeah? Definitely yeah.

Dave Davies:      At this stage, yes. So I’m going to throw that out of sight. There that’s perfect, isn’t it?

Dom:     Perfect.

Dave Davies:      And I’m going to say Hamish, find it. He’s now going to have to use his nose to work out where that was, even though he was it where it is. Even though he saw it go it. Because that’s hit the ground, it’s displaced pollen and smells. Yes. Hamish. Hamish. Hamish come here. Now we want him to bring it back to me. I always get him to come back, put a lead on him. That’s just what I do. Do you have to? No. It just helps the situation.

Dom:     It’s more control. Yeah

Dave Davies:      It is, it’s more control.

Dom:     Brilliant.

Dave Davies:      So now what we can do is take it a stage further. So again I’m going to throw to the same location. Of course the ball won’t go in exactly the same location, it’s gone somewhere different. And I’m going to spin Hamish around this time, and I’m going to point him slightly in a different direction. He knows where it is though. Find it. And off he goes. … Yes, what a clever boy. So Hamish come here. Hamish. This set of legs. That’s it, good boy.

So now we’re going to take it a stage further. So I’m going to give you the tennis ball, I’m going to take Hamish out of sight. I’m going to ask you to place the tennis ball somewhere different. Perhaps that bush, there’s a duck, a statue of a duck, an ornament, and a little shrub and another more substantial bush. Hide the ball somewhere in there, ground height, or no higher than Hamish. Hamish is almost guaranteed to go to where he expects to see the ball. But I’m going to move him out of sight as well, so he can’t see you place it down. Just slightly increasing by small increments, what it is we’re doing. One could say successive approximations.

Dom:     Okay.

Dave Davies:      And it’s just helping the dog to learn. Hamish, find it. See he’s going to go running in there and he goes to where he expects to find the toy. It’s not there. So now he’s got to rely on his nose a little bit. Wow there we go. Yes, good man. Notice I’m not saying- come here, Hamish. Hamish Hamish Hamish. Notice I’m not saying anything, I’m not clicking a clicker, I’m not doing anything to reward, to tell him that he’s being rewarded. I’m letting him get the tennis ball.

Dom:     Yeah that’s his reward, yeah.

Dave Davies:      Now you could do it, it’s not wrong. It’s just different ways of doing it. But I don’t want my dog when it does a passive indication when I’m teaching it in the early stage, I don’t want it turning round and looking at me. So because we’re going to progress with this to the dog not being able to access the toy-

Dom:     Eventually, yeah.

Dave Davies:      So that it just stares, then it’s going to be rewarded by me throwing it the toy. And the signal to the dog was its getting rewarded will actually be the tennis ball landing near it. Not a click from that hand, not a voice. I will say good dog, but when it gets the ball.

Dom:     The reward is always going to be the ball, yeah yeah.

Dave Davies:      The way I do it, yes.

Dom:     So … That little fast track session is perfect for pet dog owners to get their dog to find food or a slipper or a plastic bottle or whatever it is that they want to play with.

Dave Davies:      Absolutely, anything.

Dom:     But they shouldn’t … I’m trying to think of potential pitfalls that they might come across possibly trying to rush too far ahead. Obviously you would, the first instance where you just threw the toy out of sight a little bit, you could probably do that for a couple of days, couldn’t you?

Dave Davies:      Absolutely.

Dom:     If ever your dog’s struggling.

Dave Davies:      Just go back over to something where you were before.

Dom:     Go back a bit, okay.

Dave Davies:      Because if you don’t do that, you’ll get frustrated. And this is the thing with teaching a dog. When we start to try and push the dog forward- and I use that word advisedly, push the dog forward- we’re taking it outside of its comfort zones. Dogs learn by doing things repetitiously. And they get their confidence through succeeding. And they get the desire to do it by succeeding, because what do they get when they succeed? They get rewarded. And the trouble is people always want to push the dog too far. And [inaudible 00:15:15] walking with your dog, walk with your dog, or your dog walking with you properly on the road, is always a mess with so many people because they try to push it to quick and then they get frustrated. And if they just went with it slowly, they would get it.

Dom:     Yeah. There’s no rush with these things.

Dave Davies:      There’s no rush. Your dog is probably going to live until it’s 12 year old. You’ve got that length of time to train it.

Dom:     Brilliant, brilliant. Well thanks very much for the little insight into some scent work here. I’m sure everybody at home will be glad that you did that and- You can start that right now. You can do it in your living room, you don’t even have to do it in the garden. Just find something that your dog likes, take it out, and have a bit of fun with your dog, yeah?

Dave Davies:      Yes. Absolutely.

Dom:     Brilliant.

So, Alex?

Alex:      Yes, Dom?

Dom:     How awesome was that?

Alex:      I really enjoyed that. I enjoyed filming it, I enjoyed watching it back again as well. It’s really really cool watching Dave do his thing.

Dom:     He knows his stuff and Hamish is super awesome as well.

Alex:      Yeah he is.

Dom:     So yeah we’ve got a few plans in the pipeline actually for more things that we might be doing with Dave. So watch this space for that. But if you enjoyed that and you want to learn a little bit more about how to do some easy peesy scent work games with your dog, then you can purchase my Fun Nosework for Dogs course. It’s a mini course, it’s four or five modules. I show you how to use food and toys, just things that you have lying around at home that your dog likes. These are games you can play at home or in your garden with your dog. And they’re going to get your dog more interested in you, they’re going to give you an opportunity to turn a boring meal time where your dog just devours his food and it disappears within 30 seconds, turn the food into a game. And the course will even show you how to teach your dog how to find your keys or your phone or your purse or whatever else it is that you normally lose.

So the special offer if you want to take that now, if you go to www.mydogsuperhero.com/noseworkoffer then you can purchase that course for 39.99. It’s normally 99.99. I’ll also send you a copy of my canine coaching chronicle, which was from two months ago which was all about scent work and games and that kind of thing. Yeah so it’s a really nice introduction for you. If you’re sitting there thinking “Well I can’t do that because I’m not a- I haven’t worked in the firearms or the police or I’m not a dog trainer” you don’t need to be to do these things. You just need to know the method. The method for teaching and I make it really really easy in this course. So check out that link and check out the course.

If you enjoy this podcast- and why the hell wouldn’t you?- then please go to iTunes and leave us a review or send me an email with a review and I’ll talk about you in my daily emails. And yeah we’ll be back next week when Alex and I are going to be having a bit more banter.

Alex:      Sounds good to me.

Dom:     We’re going to be talking actually, Alex, specifically about how you can make your dog love you.

Alex:      Oh well, big subject. I’m looking forward to that.

Dom:     There’s a love song in there somewhere I think. Several, possibly. But thanks for watching everyone. And if we don’t see you through the week, we’ll see you through the window.

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Dom Hodgson