Channeling Instinct

Taking house pets to the field
By JoAnna Lou, June 2010

Earlier this year I took my Sheltie, Nemo, to a K9 nose work seminar to try out the growing sport. I had a blast watching Nemo hunt for a hidden food pouch and I could tell from his enthusiasm that he was having just as much fun as I was.

The best part was that we could dive right in. Any dog can participate because there is no training required for the beginning stages. For dogs, using their powerful noses comes naturally and it’s a great form of exercise, both mentally and physically.

Dog sport enthusiasts who participate in field, tracking, and herding trials have long known about the benefits of tapping into their pets’ instincts. Now many dog clubs are starting to extend field trials, a test of a pup’s hunting skills, to amateurs to encourage people to get their dogs off of the couch.

Last month the Susquehanna and Berkshire Valley Basset Hound Clubs hosted the Fun Field Trial, which pairs newbie dogs with prizewinning field dogs. Walking together, the two people and dogs walk the trial grounds in search of rabbits. When one is spotted, the dogs are unleashed to see what they will do. The trained dog usually sniffs and runs after the rabbit, but the open question is if the inexperienced dog will join in.

According to the Fun Field Trial founder, Kenneth Engle, the dogs relearn the skills quickly since this is what they were bred to do. 

It’s good to see more canine sport clubs create more opportunities for people and their pups to participate in activities like nose work and field trials. Doing agility and rally with my dogs has strengthen our relationship and given us an excuse to be active together.

To find a field trial or other dog sport event in your area, search the events calendar on the American Kennel Club website.

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.