The following story was a feature in The Better Companion Dog Training Facility’s monthly newsletter – written in 2017, I think, and follows my early journey into the sport of K9 Nose Work. I’ve added to the story since then, of course. I thought the story might be an interesting addition to my blog and a fun way to bring readers into MY world as well as that of my very first K9 Nose Work dog, Baxter. So, here is our story, as it began in 2012, and then updated and revised. The journey continues. Enjoy!
“The Tale of Baxter’s Nose” by Deb Frost, CNWI™
The dog sport of K9 Nose Work is a fun, challenging and sometimes competitive sport; taking its concept from serious professional detection dog training and turning it into a sport that any companion dog can enjoy. The goal of K9 Nose Work is FUN for the dog and handler, learning new scenting and targeting skills and spending great bonding time with your dog. Communication is the key to this sport.
While learning the sport of Nose Work, handlers learn a lot about reading their dogs’ body language and the dogs learn to use their already stellar scenting ability to enjoy working as a team with their person. Although The Better Companion Dog Training (regulars call it “BetCo”) in Wasilla, AK had been offering Nose Work classes (Beg-NW and its sequel, NW-Intro to Odor) since early 2011, I remained blissfully unaware of what I was missing until December of 2012.
Then along came Baxter … a [previously] unwanted, small standard Dachshund that had been rehomed due to house-training and some fear/anxiety and fear/reactivity issues. Dachshunds are sensitive – and stubborn when they want to be (which seems to be often). When I found him, he was 10 months old and on home #3. Life wasn’t looking too rosy. But one look into those soulful brown eyes in a sincere, intelligent little black and tan face and I was hooked. I brought home my very first Dachshund in December 2011.
Neutering him thankfully solved the issue of lifting his leg in the house. Time, patience and help from Claudia Sihler, CPDT-KSA, eventually worked its magic on Baxter’s other issues and it wasn’t too long before he was a welcome addition to BetCo’s Friday evening Open Play Time, where he developed several long-standing friendships in the “Small Breeds” play group and often instigated bouts of the zoomies that would do a whippet proud. Bax may have short legs, but he was a ROCKET in a big, groomed grass field!
But I digress … After we’d had Baxter in our family for a year or so, I began wondering what I could DO with him for fun? My other dogs were doing Agility, Rally, Freestyle and Treibball. What could I do with Baxter?
Serendipitously; one of my other dog classes (I had two other dogs at the time) happened to be ending while the Advanced Nose Work Practice group was gathering at BetCo – what FUN they seemed to be having! I saw Bernese Mountain Dogs, Jack Russell Terriers, Labs, Huskies, Boxers & Yorkies – purebred and mix breed dogs – this was obviously not a sport just for special scent hounds or competition dogs – although they were well represented, too. I asked my instructor, Claudia, about Nose Work, thinking maybe it was something I could do with Baxter.
Next thing I knew, we were signed up for Beginner Nose Work class and I soon found myself dressing Baxter in a sturdy, comfortable harness, setting him down facing an assortment of brown boxes and turning him loose. Once he figured out the game – find the box that smelled like hot dogs and you will get a JACKPOT of them – there was no stopping him!
It seemed like no time at all before we’d graduated from Beginner Nose Work and Nose Work- Intro To Odor class and Baxter was enthusiastically finding tiny hidden tins or straws with birch-oil-scented Q-tips to earn the prize of hot dog, cheese or chicken treats. Together, we learned to search vehicles, found ‘hides’ under chairs and on top of tables (yes, really – small dogs can do high hides!), learned to smell out hidden treasures high and low, indoors and outdoors and gained confidence along with skill. Slowly but surely, we became a team. Baxter and I not only learned a new game together, but he learned to be comfortable and at ease in different environments and more relaxed around strange people and new dogs. Nose Work classes had been the highlight of his week for months – so what next?
‘Next’ turned out to be membership in the NACSW (National Association of Canine Scent Work) and taking an ORT (Odor Recognition Test) to see if Baxter was ready for his first Nose Work TRIAL! Yikes! I may have been nervous and unsure, but the new, more confident Baxter took on the challenge with his [now] usual aplomb. He passed his Birch, Anise & Clove ORTs on the 1st try each and I soon found the two of us headed for Ninilchik, AK (Sept. 2013) for a NW1 Trial.
NO expectations at all – my plan was to think of it as a great opportunity for practice and, of course, having fun with our Nose Work practice friends. Baxter’s plans were obviously loftier. We came home with our NW1 Title – passing all 4 elements (Container, Interior, Exterior and Vehicle searches) and took 4th place overall in the NW1 portion of the trial! We even earned the coveted “Pronounced” ribbon for exceptional teamwork (according to the judges) in all four elements. Baxter really LIKES Nose Work.
We continued to have fun practicing with BetCo’s Nose Work group over the winter and signed up (gulp!) for the NW2 Trial in May 2014 in Wasilla. NO EXPECTATIONS! Heck, we’d only been to one trial so far. NW2 is a lot harder than NW1 … Baxter, again, felt I was not giving him enough credit. Did I mention he LOVES this game? Yep; Baxter and I earned our NW2 Title on May 17th, 2014. I’m still amazed. Baxter is not amazed … this little rescue Dachshund just did what he enjoys most – find those “hides” and get his treats! Get a-looooong little doggie!!
In late 2014, I decided K9 Nose Work would also be a great “retirement sport” for my older dog, [then] 8-year-old Abby, an All-American mixed breed (Icelandic Sheepdog, Collie and Traveling Salesman, we like to say). Back to Beginner Nose Work classes for me!
At about the same time, I decided that this is THE sport for me and pursued becoming an instructor. I am passionate about the concept of this sport – and how it is ALL ABOUT THE DOG. Young dogs, old dogs, fast or slow dogs, timid or reactive – all are welcome in K9 Nose Work. This is a sport I found I could put my heart and soul into – and I can’t imagine ever getting bored or out-growing it.
I decided to “go for it” and commit to the lengthy process of becoming a Certified Nose Work Instructor™ with the NACSW. Claudia and The Better Companion supported my decision and were a huge help in my journey to achieve this goal. It meant several trips “outside” and more book-learning than I could have imagined – and of course, lots of hands-on practice of teaching classes.
I began teaching nose work classes in April 2015 and earned my official certification to become a full-fledged CNWI™ on December 1st, 2016. I’ve enjoyed every minute!
Wow, what an adventure this has been (and continues to be) … and all because I adopted a [previously] unwanted rescue Dachshund.
I guess the old saying is true; sometimes you don’t get the dog you thought you wanted or expected, but you usually get the dog that you NEED. Discovering how much Dachshunds enjoy Nose Work (and dog sports in general) opened up an entire new world of possibilities for me. It’s a big part of the reason I so enjoy teaching Nose Work classes.
I learned, back in 2012, that dog sports prospects come in all shapes and sizes. It was an eye-opener for me and, like Baxter, I’ve never looked back. Just as I learned early on that all breeds (large and small) can do nose work, I realized that size or breed was seldom a reason to think ANY dog couldn’t do dog sports if they and their owners wanted to. Once I overcame my unconscious prejudice that Dachshunds (and other small dogs) were just house pets (looking back, I’m not sure why I ever thought that), I was on a role. It wasn’t long before Baxter was also competing in Agility – and doing pretty well! He was just as happy to take on Rally Obedience, Freestyle dog dance, Flyball and Trick Dog.
Over the past seven years; I’ve had the privilege of watching a talented 200+ lb. Mastiff doing Freestyle, athletic little Chihuahuas as well as giant breed dogs competing in Agility and pretty much every breed you can imagine successfully doing sports like Nose Work, Scent Work, Rally and Trick Dog. If you have a dog, any size or age – there IS a sport for you!
In June 2018, I added another Dachshund to the family – this time quite intentionally. Meet Goodwood Help Me Rhonda B Good (aka “Ronni”).
Rhonda has been part of the family for a year and a half now. She has her NW1 title, Scent Work Novice title, Barn Hunt Open title and Trick Dog Novice title … all before she hit 18 months old. She is currently following Baxter’s paw-prints in learning Agility and Rally. I really have to wonder what is next. I can hardly wait to find out.
A quick update on my Nose Work/Scent Work journey. I am currently teaching K9 Nose Work at The Better Companion/Regine Dog Training in Wasilla, AK, where they offer Intro to K9 Nose Work®, K9 Nose Work-Intro to Odor®, K9 NW-Elements classes and weekly advanced Nose Work practice sessions for all levels. I am approved to Judge or be the Certified Official at NACSW ORTs here in Alaska, and I am a certified Lead Judge for Performance Scent Dogs®.
Baxter and I are competing at the NW3 level in K9 Nose Work (he has his 2nd NW3 Title – we just need one more to make Elite), at Excellent level in Performance Scent Dog trials and have started competing in AKC Scent Work (once I finally got around to registering him with the AKC under their PALS program for unregistered purebreds). I really had to once Rhonda started AKC Scent Work, right? We are all three having a blast. Abby retired at the age of 12 after earning her NW2 title, but little sister Rhonda has taken up the baton and is coming up fast. Look out, Baxter!