Follow Your Nose - The Fun of Scent Detection with Special Guest Barbara Rogina

Corey McCusker  00:03
Hello dog lovers, and welcome to Muttz with Mannerz™ Canine Academy Podcast, where we’ll share dog training tips and educational information to help you raise your pup, young or old, so they can be a loving part of your family and your community for life. I’m your host, Corey McCusker, Canine Coach. And today I’m thrilled to have with me, my good friend Barbara Rogina, Canine Coach, also with Muttz with Mannerz™. So let me tell you a little bit about our guest today Barbara. Barbara brings another dynamic to our team as she is a teacher and trainer of both humans and canines. Barbara has been teaching dog obedience classes for the past 10 years with Muttz with Mannerz™, with a focus on puppy manners, and some fun classes – Fun with Scenting and Fun with Agility. She is also a yoga instructor qualified to teach various types of yoga. And Barbara has expanded her knowledge of pet care in her role as a part time receptionist at the Stouffville Vet Clinic. Barbara, like so many of the Muttz with Mannerz™ team, believes in giving back and is a member of St. John Ambulance Dog Therapy Program, where she dedicates many hours visiting hospitals, retirement homes and high schools with Hunter, her four-legged son. Hunter’s calm, kind, enthusiastic personality brings joy to all he meets. Barbara just adopted another boy from Speaking of Dogs Rescue, Baxter, who is an adorable miniature poodle with a feisty personality who we know will be a future star in our team. Barbara continues educating herself by taking courses and training in pet care. Barbara you take so many courses. She has taken an Introduction to Acupressure for Small Animals and she’s currently enrolled in a dog massage course to expand her knowledge on what she delivers. We are excited that she offers the programs such as Doga, where that is yoga with your dog, try it out if you haven’t, and the scenting courses, which are huge success. And they fill up really quick. And she’s here to talk about that today. So hello, Barbara. 

Barbara Rogina  02:11
Hi, Corey.

Corey McCusker  02:12
So let’s talk about what scent detection is. So we introduced the Fun with Scenting I think a couple of years ago. And let’s just talk about how it became a sport for those listening that may not know about it, and maybe are interested or we’re going to get them interested.

Barbara Rogina  02:29
Interesting. So scent detection is really all about enjoying watching and getting to participate in what your dog does naturally. So you think about your dog when you go on a walk, right? Your dog loves to sniff. So this is what we want to do is we want to be able to enjoy that game that your dog is doing with you – whoever’s holding the leash. So have you ever noticed that when you’re on a walk, how intent your dog can become when he’s focusing on a particular scent? Right. And then sometimes he sniffs the air, sometimes he sniffs the ground. Sometimes he digs right into the snow, depending on the weather, what you’ve got. So what we want to do in scent detection, is to start understanding better, what is your dog doing, and having some fun with your dog while your dog is sniffing and using their nose. It can be lots of fun, but it’s also, it can also be serious work for dogs. From a dog’s perspective, you give them a task to perform. So think about search and rescue dogs, where they are specifically trained to go and find missing people, or dogs that are trained in searching for bedbugs, like ooh, but still, that’s what they’re trained to find. Dogs that are can be trained to find explosives in the war zones, or even dogs that are trained to find drugs in airport luggage. So it can be a fun, but also dangerous sport for a dog. What we want to do is we want to learn and teach the dogs something that’s fun, that they already do naturally. But we want to give them something, some guidance in terms of, here, we’re going to show them and introduce them to a specific scent, an essential oil. And we start teaching and working with the dog to find that oil wherever it happens to be, wherever we hide it. So we want to have some fun. 

Corey McCusker  04:19
So that’s great. And I mean when you mentioned the dangerous stuff or even you know searching for bedbugs, gross, but that’s again it can become a real job for them. So, Barb, how did you experience or get interested in even get into the scent detection?

Barbara Rogina  04:38
Well, actually Hunter right now – my dog – is 13 years old. And as a puppy, he was really just focused on playing with his friends, his four-legged friends, meeting people, so he really wasn’t into sniffing or using his nose that much. But as he got older, I noticed that he was spending more and more time sniffing the ground and being so intent and focused and seeming to enjoy it. So at that time, we started looking, investigating something called Scent Detection for dogs. And we enrolled on it. And oddly enough, he got, we both, both of us just had a blast with scent level one, where I introduced him to the scent, and he had so much fun. When we talk about scent, we also refer, sometimes refer to it as nose work. And what that is, is we teach them a particular scent. In this case, for level one, it’s wintergreen, an essential oil. And we Hunter seemed to be naturally, seemed to actually understand all this naturally. So I started learning his body language, so that when he found the hidden scent, right, I started reading his body language, it’s telling me, okay, he’s found it. So that helped me say, call an alert, which is what we were taught as humans to say, when your dog finds a hidden scent, now raise your hand and let us know you found it. And we give the dog a treat. So he was enjoying it, I was enjoying it. So by the time we finished scent level one, we immediately enrolled in scent level two, and then scent level three. And what was fun is that Hunter kept learning more, I kept learning more, and we kept having fun. To this day, he’s, as I say, he’s 13 years old. So he started when we were, when he was probably around 8, 7, 8 years old, is when we started with this. And then to this day, when I set up some scents and give him some challenges of finding a particular scent, he just loves it. And it is so mentally tiring for them. It’s amazing. These classes are typically 45 minutes, if that, because the dogs get so tired, which is really nice.

Corey McCusker  06:49
Yeah, that’s great. I’m always interested in what you’re doing, because you always are going outside of the box with some of the things that, you know, we’ve offered. So I’m really thrilled that we’ve brought that into our programs. And I wanted to find out more about it. So I took one of your classes, and that was with Cleo. And at the time Cleo was, I love the agility. So she had done agility. She was our demo dog and most of our obedience classes. But she had gotten older. So she I think she was 12 or 13 when I took your class and she loved it. And she had this little knobby little tail that used to wag and you know, when she found that scent, it was okay, I got it. And then we’ve got Skye now, our new young one, and I wanted Mike to get involved, my spouse, to get involved with Skye in something. And I was doing agility with her and the obedience. So I had him try your scent level. And he just was amazed at how the dog could find the scent, the dog could you know, that Skye was able to tell him. And it was a great bonding experience for them. So you know, I’ve mentioned and you’ve even mentioned, so I’ve talked about Skye, and I think she was a year old when she took it. Cleo was 12 or 13. You said Hunter got into it seven or eight. So, can any dog? I mean, we’re talking about different ages do it. Are some too young to do it? So what can you tell us about any dog or any age that could do scent detection.

Barbara Rogina  08:16
I would say with scent detection, it’s really any dog. It’s just phenomenal in terms of the age doesn’t matter. Well actually, let me back up. Into a point, age can matter. So we typically suggest that the dog should be at least six months if not older, just because then they have better control of their impulse control. Right, they can focus better, because think about we’re in a class where there are maybe four or five other teams with dogs. So we want the puppy to have – or the dog, depending on the age. We want them to be able to focus on the task at hand and not to be so focused on trying to play with other dogs. So usually at least six months. But when you think about certain breeds are definitely predisposed for sniffing. Otherwise, other – all dogs can do this. I have seen mini Dachshunds. I have seen Rottweilers. I’ve seen Portuguese water dogs. It doesn’t matter their size. It doesn’t matter their age. They can be old. They can be blind. They can be deaf. They still can sniff. They still use their sniffers. They enjoy it. And because it’s something that the handler, which is the person on the other end of the leash, can do with them, it’s a continuation of a bonding experience it’s a continuation of having fun with your dog, no matter what age they are, no matter even how you are as a handler. If you’re not comfortable walking, you just put them on a longer lead, and then they can still go away and sniff to their heart’s content.

Corey McCusker  09:49
That’s so true. And that’s me with my aging and knee issues. This is a good sport for me. So anyway, oh yeah. So let’s talk about the benefits of scent detection,

Barbara Rogina  10:01
Lots of benefits. Every day, almost when I do this with Hunter, I just keep seeing how much, how beneficial it is for him, and for me, encouraging. The dogs, it just helps strengthening the bond between you and your dog. And then it gives an awesome confidence builder. So if you’ve got a rescue dog, and you want to help with their confidence, this is great, because now you’re allowing the dog to sniff. And then when the dog tells you, it’s found it, right, you’re so happy and thrilled. It just, it’s incredible for their confidence. It also helps you the handler in terms of understanding your dog’s body language, so you can read it a little bit more. You can see it, they can actually see when they’re, when the dog has, is actually focused on a scent, or when the dog is still sniffing around trying to find the actual scent. And then one of the other benefits, and I think is really interesting, is that the dog, when you think about when we do a lot of training with our dogs, the dogs are so used to listening to us to guide them, to do a sit, to do a down. So they’re used to us telling them, Okay, this is what I’d like you to do. And then we mark it. We’re happy. Yes. Now with scent though, once we’ve taught the dog to find the scent, and what the actual scent is, now we’re actually, the responsibility goes on the other way around. Now it’s the dog who’s responsible for letting us know, the handler, where the scent is. Because in Fun with Scent Detection, we don’t know where the scent is.  At first we do – because we’re teaching, we’re both people –  the dog and you are teaching – are learning about this. But you get to the point where you know, the scent is hidden, you don’t know where it is, the dog doesn’t know. So then you have to really rely on reading your dog’s body language and relying on the dogs sniffer to be able to say, Hey, this is it. I found it, I found it. So it’s a lot of fun. 

Corey McCusker  12:00
It is a lot of fun. And you know, I mean, as I said, I’ve taken Cleo, you know, my previous dog through it. And she was really good at telling me and then when I saw Mike and Skye, I’m like, Oh, I wonder, because Mike doesn’t do as much dog training as we do. So I was wondering, okay, was he going to be able to read the language and Skye was just so like adamant – you could just see her. And I go in to your graduating classes and I videotape. And I can always see the dog is telling the owner and sometimes the owners don’t pick up on that cue. So it’s really a great way as you said, for you to understand your dog’s body language and what they’re telling you. So I just mentioned I go in for graduation. So I’m aware that you can get certificates for scent detection. And there’s a, there can be a test, well there is a test at graduation. And I mean, it’s up to the owner to decide, but can you explain to the audience what’s involved if they did want to get a certification for it?

Barbara Rogina  13:02
Certainly. So with Hunter and I, we’re members of the SDDA group which is referred to as Sporting Detection Dogs Association. It’s a Canadian group that focuses on enjoying the art of scent detection. This group has got members across the country, and they were starting, they were started in 2012 as a not for profit organization so that no matter what the breed of the dog is and their handler, they can enjoy the benefits of scent detection. With SDDA, one can earn titles. So what we do in the level – in the three levels of scent detection, is we introduce the dog, we train them. And then if the handler and the team is interested in continuing they can attend what’s referred to as trials. And these trials is where, is a continuation of increasing the challenges for the dog to find a scent and having the handler be able to determine where is the scent and help the dog. To prepare the people for this, what the SDDA group has provided is something that’s called a DOT test – Designated Odour Test. So there is one DOT test or evaluation per level, scent level detection. So the first one is on wintergreen, one of the essential oils that we use and is purely optional. The person of the team does not have to do this to continue on to next level. It’s more for themselves to challenge because what we find is that in scent detection, there’s no competition between one team and another team. It’s really you’re competing against yourself to say okay, can I now find the scent. The scent might be high. The scent might be low, right? So the DOT test just encourages and gets the people ready if they decide they want to go to trials. It’s really, it’s totally optional. It’s a fun thing to say, Okay, after six weeks, can we do it? Can we do it?

Corey McCusker  14:59
Yeah, it’s great. And it’s good. And I mean, I’m a competitive person. So I always want to do that test, but not everyone does. And that’s where you say, they can still continue on, and just have fun with their dog with the scenting. Or if they want to challenge themselves, as you said, they can do the test. So that’s great. So, any of you listening, and we’ve kind of intrigued you, and you want to get started, I suggest that you check out our Fun with Scent Detection classes, because we do offer them on an ongoing basis. Or if you’re not in our area, you could find a training facility that offers some in your area. I’m not sure if SDDA can help you with that also.

Barbara Rogina  15:39
So remember, this is all about having fun with your dog. The fun and the strengthening of your bond with your dog does not stop at six months. Because oftentimes, we know, we tend to say, Okay, let’s do the basic commands, basic, the sit, the downs, you know, the stay, the waits, and then we kind of stop. But the dog is still learning. The dog is it’s an ongoing challenge with you and your dog. You want to really keep growing in that bond. So it doesn’t stop at six months, it continues for as long as you want to. And as long as you’re having some fun. It promotes confidence, provides phenomenal mental stimulation, fun, ideal for shy, elderly, or even disabled dogs. It’s just regardless of whether you plan on attending any of these trials, this is a fun time for you to enjoy what your dog does naturally. 

Corey McCusker  16:29
It’s so true. Are there any risks of scent detection or reason a dog or owner couldn’t do it?

Barbara Rogina  16:37
As with any class, there’s always going to be some risks involved. In scenting classes, we do use specific essential oils that the SDDA or other organizations identify that we’re supposed to be using. Now what people need to understand, what people don’t realize is that the dog never actually touches the essential oil. There’s always a gap. So they sniff the essential oil. But some of the, some of the owners actually get nervous about the thought of the dog getting in close proximity to the essential oil. So that’s something some of the owners need to think about. Again, we’ve never had any issues because we make sure the dog never touches the essential oil. And then if someone is considering bringing their dog to class, and their dog happens to be reactive, a reactive dog with other dogs, or reactive being on leash, well, then they can still attend a class, but just understand that when they have that the dog might still be uncomfortable being so close to other teams, even though the dogs never interact with one another, even though the dogs are always on leash. It’s something to think about. Reactive dogs are certainly welcome. But sometimes there’s a stress level between the handler and the dog. And then sometimes that stress level gets passed on to the dog and the dog is not able to relax and enjoy themselves as much as they could.

Corey McCusker  17:57
So true. So Barb, thank you so much for joining me today and sharing your knowledge about fun with scent detection. I’m definitely going to have you back on another podcast because I want to dive into the Doga. And I think people need to know about that because it’s great fun with your dog and yourself. And so for more information about Barbara and Muttz with Mannerz™ classes, you can visit our website at It’s also provided in the show notes. In the show notes we’ve also provided you with the SDDA link, and also the Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers. If you’re looking for dog trainers, we’re here if you do need us. So thank you everyone for listening in. If you are interested in future podcasts or reading our blogs, you can go to our website. Also if you are interested in a certain podcast and you would like us to do it, you can email us at Barb, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks listeners, and have a great day everyone.

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