Rainey on a roll

Hound mix shows aptitude for nose work.
By  Christelle L. Del Prete

Rainey with AllieAlthough Rainey had plenty of canine companionship and attention from caregivers and volunteers, the spirited and inquisitive four-year-old dog needed a job to do. She’s not the type who’s happy just to relax in her yard after going for a walk with a staff person or volunteer — she’s an overachiever who prefers to be busy. Dogtown trainer Allie Bender saw that Rainey would be a good candidate for nose work, a fun search and scenting sport. Rainey was raring to go.

Nose to the ground

As a hound mix who loves to sniff, she’s perfect for the job, and is already showing her aptitude. At least once a week, Rainey heads to Tara’s Run, Dogtown’s large indoor training and agility building, with Allie. As soon as they arrive, Rainey’s leash is unclipped and she takes off with her nose to the ground and her tail in the air. She’s got to get a good sense of the building – and who’s been in it – before she’s ready to work.

While Rainy is distracted, Allie sets up for the training session. She arranges five boxes in a loose cluster on the ground in the center of the building, and tosses a tasty treat into one of them. In future nose work sessions, the boxes will be much farther apart, and will contain more complicated scents, such as birch, anise, and clove. But Rainey is still in the beginning phases of learning the “find it” cue, so food (which is a great motivator) works best – especially smelly foods like freeze-dried liver.

Sniffing the air

Rainey's nose work session with boxesAllie calls Rainey over to her and tells her to “find it.” Taking her cue like an old pro, Rainey approaches the boxes, sniffing the air. Her powerful nose doesn’t steer her wrong; within seconds, she’s located the right box and is enjoying the treat. Allie gets another treat ready, and Rainey gets to work for her reward again.

After a 10-minute session, Rainey is tired; nose work is brain work, too. When she returns to her run after a training session, excess energy spent, she’s happy to stretch out for a nap. Over time, the sport has helped Rainey feel more confident about other things in life, too.

Though Rainey’s nose work will continue to get more complex (longer training sessions, replacement of food scents with more sophisticated scents, and eventually elimination of the boxes), Rainey knows she’s got this. Above all, the training is Rainey’s chance to shine.

Update: Rainey now has plenty of new smells to check out. She has just been adopted.

Learn more about how adoptable animals live the good life at the Sanctuary.

Photos by Molly Wald