Dogs have a nose for new sport

Competition that asks canines to sniff out scents comes to Vancouver




National Association of Canine Scent Work

K9 Nose Work

Joyce's Dogs dog training

National Association of Canine Scent Work

K9 Nose Work

Joyce’s Dogs dog training

Take a whiff of this story because the dogs come out smelling sweet.

It’s a new sport where pooches use their noses to find hidden scents in short order. It’s a takeoff on drug-sniffing dogs.

And from the happy looks on the mugs of canines and their owners Sunday, the competition was as rewarding as a man in a Mackinaw shouting, “That dog can hunt.”

It officially is called a competition of the National Association of Canine Scent Work. Ninety owners and their dogs competed at Harmony Elementary School in east Vancouver.

“In 30 years in law enforcement, the most enjoyable times were always working with the dogs,” said Ron Gaunt of Los Angeles. So, with two partners he created the sport in 2006 and has been taking it around America.

The dogs hunt both indoors and outdoors for three hidden scents: birch, anise and clove.

“We had to come up with three scents that are legal to own,” Gaunt said.

And it’s a nondiscriminatory sport. “That little Shih Tzu can do just as well as the bloodhound,” he said.

Joyce Biethan of Ridgefield brought her dog, Mick, nearly 14, to the Sunday event.

“He aced all four elements,” she said. That meant he correctly found the scent in four locations: among 20 boxes, in a room, in a vehicle, and on the playground.

But Mick almost was disqualified in one test.

“He came very close to lifting his leg,” she said. “I was able to gently pull him in.”

Biethan, whose business is Joyce’s Dogs, a training firm, said the nose competition, “Is the most fun a dog can have.”

What about the owner?

“It’s the most fun an owner can have, too,” she said. She started taking dog-nose classes 15 months ago.

Sunday’s event was sponsored by Shelley Smith of West Linn, Ore., whose business is called K-9 Enterprises. She learned the sport from Gaunt. Owners paid $85 to compete Sunday.

“It is a truly magical experience,” she said. “Every person I’ve talked to … has said how fun it was and how impressed they were with the dogs’ abilities.”

Carol Riser of Boring, Ore., said she was happy to be at the nose event, which was the first to be held in the Pacific Northwest.

Her dog Teddy, a 4-year-old sheltie, discovered all four scents within the time allowed, about three minutes.

“He’s kind of a wild dog,” she said of Teddy. “But nose work is the only things he’s stayed focused on.

“I’m very proud of him. He’s a gorgeous dog but he’s crazy. He chases cars.

“They get lots of treats after they find the odor. Mine likes hot dogs,” she said.

Barbara Stone of Hillsboro, Ore., brought her bearded collie, Brinian, 9. ““The rest of his body is broken but his nose still works,” she said. “It’s great for old dogs.”

Gaunt said dogs have a natural instinct to hunt. And this competition brings back that desire.

Event host Smith said her dog Katie, 11, a golden retriever, is an amazing animal.

“This dog has gone to Katrina (in New Orleans). She’s done 10 years of hospice … all kinds of volunteering. And she loves this sport. This is her favorite thing to do.”