It's no secret that our dogs' senses of smell far surpass our own. Most dogs love to sniff when out on walks, sometimes to the point that it becomes difficult to get much exercise. At least for us. We tend to think of walks from our point of view. The farther you go, the more exercise you get, right? Many of our dogs, however, seem to prefer a more leisurely walk that allows them to smell everything along the way. We think they're not getting enough exercise, but it's really just a different form of exercise. The opportunity to sniff and explore with their noses can actually be a great workout for our dogs.
Enter the sport of K9 Nosework. Most of you are probably familiar with search dogs. Some dogs are trained for search and rescue to find lost people. Some dogs are trained to search for illegal substances at airports. Some dogs are trained to work with law enforcement in searching for drugs. Dogs are now being trained to detect cancer in people. A few folks decided to take those same skills and turn them into a dog sport in which anyone can participate.
The official organization is the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW). You can find them here: http://www.funnosework.com/
They have certified instructors who offer workshops and classes. Most people take the classes as another way to have fun with their dogs, but they also have competitions for those interested in competing in the sport. Sometimes these classes are a great outlet for dogs who don't do as well in regular dog training classes with all of the dogs together. In a nosework class, dogs are worked one at a time, so there is no interaction among the dogs. When dogs are not working, they are crated in another room. If you do take a class, then, your dog needs to be comfortable spending most of the class period in a crate away from you.
You can also have fun setting up your own scent work games with your dog. Whether you join a structured class or work on your own, it really is a great way for your dog to burn off energy.