by Ellen and Glen Lindenfeld
Rhett came into our home 3 and a half years ago; he was a stray who came in to EGRR heartworm positive, when a very kind soul in central Florida pulled him from a shelter, and a transport was arranged to bring him to South Florida. We had lost our 9 year old female very suddenly 3 months previously, and we had 2 other older goldens and a cat at the time, so were not “in the market” for another dog. However, I made a comment to EGRR’s board about my next dog would be named Rhett (I had recently seen the name in a book about dogs involved in 911, and liked the name), and what a surprise, shortly after saying this, a big red golden named Rhett came into rescue, thus some of the board felt that Rhett might be a good dog for us.
After returning from a visit up north, I went to Clint Moore Animal Hospital, just to look at Rhett (I did not tell anyone on the board that I was going), fell in love with Rhett, and 2 days later brought him home to foster.
The beginning was not exactly smooth; he and my other male had a few issues with sharing tennis balls, and one night we had a bit of an altercation with Rhett and our male golden Griffey over a ball, and our 12 year old cat was sitting on the top of the pile. No one got injured; I just learned that any play with balls needed to be closely supervised, and. I was very much on (and off) the fence as to whether I was going to adopt Rhett, but by late November, I realized that he had become a part of our family, and we adopted him. Over a period of time, Rhett and Griffey learned to be best friends, along with our older female Shelbie, and our 12 year old cat learned to tolerate him as he did our other goldens. Rhett has woven his way into our hearts as they all do, and he is absolutely wonderful with our “new” 11 year old girl Ginger, who has been with us for 5 weeks. Rhett has appeared to be afraid (or maybe anxious is a better word) around small dogs, as we learned in our first obedience class, when there was a Chihuahua in our class, and he was absolutely transfixed, so we have looked for a number of ways to improve his behavior around small dogs.
A few months ago, after the loss of our 13 year old golden Griffey, for the first time in 24 years we only had one animal in the house, Rhett (versus 2, 3, 4 or 5 animals). Since Rhett had spent the past 3 years living here with multiple dogs, I was concerned about how he would adjust to being the only animal in the house, thus I was looking for ways to further socialize, and increase confidence in Rhett, who is 8/9 years old. Rhett has attended 3 basic obedience classes since coming to live with us, primarily for socializing and bonding, and I was thinking about taking him once again, just to interact with other dogs, when I saw that Dawn Hanna from “Oh Behave Dog Training“ was offering a new class, which is described below.
K9 Fun Nosework – Plantation Heritage Park, Plantation, FL
“Wouldn’t it be great if your dog could find your keys? Dogs have an amazing sense of smell and a natural desire to hunt. This class focuses on teaching you how to encourage and 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 class for your dog to have fun, build confidence, and burn lots of mental and physical energy.”
There are a number of articles out on K9 Nosework; I have seen some in Dog Fancy Magazine, and there are a lot of pictures on YouTube regarding this new “sport.” It has become so popular that there are actually K9 Nosework competitions! This is not to be confused with search and rescue, but is more a sport to build confidence and teach your dog how to find things like car keys, or the remote control, etc., that you have a tendency to misplace.
I thought this sounded like fun, and a “no stress” class, so Rhett and I attended for 6 weeks, and we continue to work on this. We had the advantage of a small class, just Rhett plus 3 other dogs, and each dog works independently while the other handlers observe. Basically, you begin with shoe boxes, hiding high scent treats in the boxes, and your dog has to find the box that has the treats in it and “alert” to it. You then advance to pairing “smelly” treats with an essential oil of your choice. The goal is to get to the point where you no longer need food treats, only the scent of the essential oils, in order for your dog to find whatever it is that you would like him/her to find. You advance from shoe boxes to other items like lawn chairs, wallets, hats, water bottles, grocery bags, etc., hiding treats in and under the items so that your dog has to “find” the scent in a number of different scenarios. Rhett had his good days and his less than “good” days, but he did manage to find car keys hidden under a hat with no food treats, only an essential oil, and I was so proud of him! One very interesting aspect of doing your homework is putting all of the “distractions” out in the front yard, so envision this: you are out in the front yard with all kinds of items on the grass, such as a bucket, a lawn chair, shoe boxes, hats, plastic bags, a cooler, etc.; my neighbors looked over at me and Rhett one night and just said “I guess she is doing dog training. ..”One of the ladies in our class got creative, and went to a Wal-Mart parking lot to practice, and when a woman driving by saw the lady “dumping” all of her distractions in the parking lot, she screamed at the woman working on Nosework about littering in the parking lot!
Another really positive aspect of the class is that Dawn, the trainer, puts it on YouTube and you get to see your dog on YouTube. ….that was very exciting!! Since recently acquiring our new 11 year old Ginger, we have not been working as hard on this, but we will continue to do this work, since Rhett really enjoys it, and it is definitely mental stimulation for him. We hope to begin working novice rally with Rhett in the fall, to give him another activity to participate in.
This was the 3rd class I have taken with Dawn Hanna, and I have also hired her for personal training lessons for my daughter’s dog, which was extremely effective. If you are interested in attending K9 Nosework, basic obedience classes, etc., please check out her website, www.ohbehavedogtraining.com or go to www.Broward.org, and look for info on the parks webpage. In addition to rally class, we are hoping to begin obedience class in order to better bond with our new girl Ginger, beginning in April.
Although the initial foster period was not the smoothest, Rhett has turned into a well behaved, sweet boy, and can now handle meetings with small dogs and big dogs alike; I credit much of this improvement in his behavior to the obedience and Nosework classes that we have attended with him.
If you want to participate in a fun activity with your dog, without the stress of obedience training (since all the work is done by the dog in this class, at the dog’s pace), think about taking a K9 Nosework class! I guarantee you will have fun!! There are so many opportunities to work with your rescue dog, to bond, to improve socialization with other dogs, and just to have a good time. . . .I hope many of you will look into these opportunities.