Scent Work for Introducing Fearful Dogs to New Places

fearful dogs May 16, 2022

Do you have a dog who is hesitant to explore new places? Many fearful dogs find any new, frightening.  We love Scent Work games for easing fearful dogs' introduction to a new home, to encourage exploration of different rooms in a home, and as a way to get a dog to sniff and enjoy new outdoor areas. 


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 pet dogs.   


Why Scent Work For Fearful Dogs? 

There are so many reasons to love Scent Work for any dog, but there are some reasons that we developed our Scent Work classes specifically for fearful dogs. 

  • Scent Work teaches alternative behaviors: Many fearful dogs freeze up or flee, or lunge, bark, or bite when they're in situations they find scary. In many (but not all) cases, putting their nose down to sniff would be a reasonable and acceptable replacement behavior for these fearful or aggressive responses. Even better, sniffing is likely to be "naturally" reinforced in many cases, by the scents that are in the environment. 
  • "Triggers" can be easily incorporated into Scent Work: You can start to pair new or concerning stimuli with a game the dog loves by playing Scent Work games in new locations, or by incorporating novel or problematic objects, sounds, or scents into the search area.
  • Scent Work props facilitate generalization: Many Scent Work instructors use cardboard boxes in their classes. Boxes can serve as a cue to the dog to start the Scent Work game, and can easily be carried across contexts, as you'll see in the video. There's nothing special about cardboard boxes- you can choose your own Scent Work props that are convenient for you to transport. 



Are you interested in learning more about Scent Work for fearful dogs?  Join our self-paced online Beginning Scent Work class.