Scent Work for Fearful Foster Dogs

fearful dogs Jun 13, 2022

June is Foster a Pet month, and I'll be talking about foster dog-related topics all month.  This week, I'm talking about how scent work can be helpful for fearful foster dogs


What Is Scent Work? 

Scent Work involves dogs learning to search for food or other items by scent. While some dogs trained in Scent Work go on to participate in competition, and search and rescue dogs or "drug-sniffing" dogs use their searching skills in service to humans, there are plenty of recreational and practical uses for Scent Work training for fearful foster dogs.   


How Can Scent Work Benefit Fearful Foster Dogs? 

If you foster fearful dogs, you know that sometimes just getting them to come out of hiding can be challenging.  Scent Work is especially helpful for fearful foster dogs because :

  • Scent Work is easy at-home enrichment: Your fearful foster dog might not be ready to come out and play fetch with you, or go for a walk.  But they might be able to sniff out treats in the house. Even if your foster dog is afraid of you, you can set up Scent Work searches inside their safe area, and then leave the room. 
  • Scent Work games can reinforce coming out of hiding:  If your fearful foster dog needs to hide, please let them do so. Never try to force a scared dog out of their hiding place. Setting up some Scent Work games for them, and then leaving the area, can encourage them to venture out in a low-pressure way.   
  • Scent Work pairs your home and your family with good stuff:  Fearful foster dogs are often afraid of their foster family and foster home environment.  Scent Work games using food or a favorite toy as the reinforcer (the thing the dog finds) can build positive associations for your foster dog. 
  • Scent Work builds desirable behaviors: Scent Work games reinforce behaviors like moving around and sniffing. A dog who is willing to move around and sniff outdoors is more likely to eliminate there (rather than in the house), and is closer to enjoying going for a walk. 
  • Scent Work could help ease the transition to an adoptive home: Moving from a foster home to an adopter's home can be pretty traumatic for a fearful dog. Show your foster pup's adopters how to set up easy Scent Work games. If you used boxes for your Scent Work games, you could even send those same boxes with your foster dog so they have an easily recognizable cue telling them that the game is on! 


In honor of Foster a Pet Month, we're offering a 20% discount on our Scent Work class, the Reactive Dog Survival Guide course, Healthy Smiles toothbrushing course, our monthly training membership, and one-on-one initial assessments. Use the code "RESCUE20" when checking out.