We had a great search dog training session with Ozzy at the weekend. She’s picked up the ‘mechanics’ of the search, so we’re gradually increasing the size of the area to be searched and the time it takes her to locate the person who has kindly agreed to hide from her. It’s great to see her in action. But also a little bit terrifying. Continue reading
Molly and Ozzy are off to stay with some other Labradors this weekend. And so this morning I packed up their stuff and dropped them off at their temporary home. But before I did so, we had a brief discussion about the importance of behaving well and went through our usual ‘see you again soon’ ritual. Continue reading
There’s a saying among dog trainers and handlers: Everything travels down the lead. Because working with a dog is about much more than the commands that we give them. It’s about the way in which we give them. About our tone of voice. Our body language. Even the mood we’re in. To work effectively with a dog, we need to be in the right frame of mind. And we need to put everything else aside. Continue reading
While we had Molly out with us for Ozzy’s training yesterday, we decided to do a bit of an experiment. After we’d finished Ozzy’s searches, Ozzy and I wandered off to hide in a pre-agreed area and Natalie unleashed Molly to come and look for us. Would she find us? Would she find us before it got dark? Would an untrained but energetic and highly enthusiastic Labrador be able to do what Ozzy (with all of her three months of training so far) does seemingly without a second thought? Or would it all go terribly wrong? Continue reading
It was a lovely sunny day today, and I’d managed to get my various chores done by lunchtime, which left time for a nice lunch and a trip to nearby Leigh Woods for some search dog training with Ozzy. It was the first sunny weekend day for some time, though, so we were far from the only people who had chosen this particular destination. Which made for some odd looks as Ozzy and I charged through the undergrowth. Continue reading
As far as Labradors go, Ozzy can be a bit of a snuggler. All the more so after a busy day of training, running around and generally being a bit of a puppy. And especially as the days – and evenings – get that little bit nippier and the nights draw in. But thanks to Natalie and her crochet talents, we have the answer. And so I’m proud to present… Continue reading
As Ozzy gets older, I’m increasing gradually the distance that she comes running with me. She’s just gone eighteen months now, and we’ve worked our way up slowly to a little over three miles. Well, I run just over three miles, but she races around so much she probably runs about eight. But that’s not the problem. The problem is something a bit less Strava-friendly. The problem, as per usual at this time of year, is mud. Continue reading
As we enter the ‘cold and windy’ part of the rainy season here in Somerset, it’s welly boots all round whenever we leave the house. Especially if we’re walking the dogs, as all of our normal walks are now several inches deep in the boggy stuff.
Pulling on my wellies for this morning’s trundle, I was reminded of a recent visit to one of my consulting clients, an agricultural college with a thriving community of farming and equestrian students. Arriving a little early for a meeting, I popped over to the campus cafe.
I was greeted by a huge pile of welly boots stacked up outside the door. Inside, a horde of students, clearly having just finished their early morning chores around the farm and stables, was drinking gallons of hot chocolate and steaming up the windows with their excited chatter. Continue reading
Now that the clocks have gone back, the nights truly are drawing in. Here in Somerset, the sun sets well before 5pm now and it’s pretty much dark by six. Which means that, for the days when I’m working at home, we’ve had to switch to our ‘winter’ evening schedule. But, to be honest, I’m struggling. Continue reading
Anyone who has a dog will know that their sense of smell is far superior to our own. But how does their nose work? What is it capable of? And what can we learn from our dogs about the world around us?
In ‘Being a dog: Following the dog into a world of smell’, psychologist and animal behaviourist Alexandra Horowitz sets out to answer these questions.
She learns from experts in all things scent and scentwork, from perfume creators to truffle dog trainers. And she observes her own dogs in their scent-based world.
Horowitz also works to improve her own sense of smell, engaging with ‘scent tours’ around the city, participating in experiments and training herself to be more aware of the smells around her.
I really like this book, with its fusion of scientific investigation and personal experiences. Sure, it does go off on a bit of a tangent at times, but overall it’s a highly enjoyable read.
It also provides an excellent overview of the different ways in which dogs can be trained to use their sense of smell, from search and rescue to the detection of explosives, cancer and (my personal favourite) Orca scat (yes, that’s Killer Whale poo).
There are lots of books about how the sense of smell works. And there are plenty about the different ways in which dogs use their sense of smell to help us. But there are very few that explore both. And I have yet to find one that does it as well as this one.