DIY Suspended Scent Work
Updated: Jan 13, 2022
Like a lot of folks, I've been trying to come up with safe activities to do with my own dog during the pandemic. One of the ways I've tackled this is by taking up Scent Work again. Luckily a friend and colleague began teaching online NoseWork classes due to COVID-19 restrictions. We signed up back in April and haven't looked back!
This post is for you whether you and your dog are familiar with Scent Work or are totally new to the game. The set-up will vary based on your dog's experience level. If you're unfamiliar with how Scent Work benefits all dogs, click here to learn more.
The class we are currently enrolled in focuses on introducing dogs to the first target odor, birch. We started out placing our hide in open boxes. The odor is paired with high value food to establish the relationship between the scent and the reinforcer.
After my dog got accustomed to finding the hides in boxes, we then moved on to suspended hides. Putting together suspended hides for my dog's searches proved a bit of a challenge, so I decided to use some cheap, easily accessible materials to create my own.
Here's what you'll need:
- Small pool noodle
- Kitchen knife or boxcutter
Be sure the pool noodle you buy has a hole in the center. Try using it like a telescope to make sure. Have fun and pretend you're a pirate while you're at it!
Take the noodle and cut it into sections. Feel free to vary the section lengths.
Cut strips of paracord anywhere from 12 inches to 3 feet in length. At one end of the paracord, create a big enough knot so that it will not slip through the center of the pool noodle.
Thread the other end of the paracord through the pool noodle. Use a slipknot to hang your suspended hide on doorknobs, cabinet doors, coat hangers, etc. Be sure not to place the hide above the height of your dog's nose, especially in the early stages of training.
If your dog is working on specific odors, such as birch, place the hide in the center of the pool noodle (it shouldn't fall out because of the nice big knot you created at the bottom). You can then place your reinforcer on top of the pool noodle so your dog has easy access.
If your dog is currently searching for food only, try cutting up longer strips of cheese or hotdog so they can be placed into the center of the noodle and pulled out easily by your dog.
Since I had a surplus from this project, I went ahead and labeled each section using a permanent marker. They are labeled A, B and C for anise, birch and clover - the three scents used by the National Association of Canine Scent Work.
I hope this has inspired you to craft some hides of your own, or simply to try the sport for the first time. Please be sure to share your creations with us in the comments section below!