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In Copake, canines find nose-worthy news

Hey, look what I found. Cricket is alerting on a “hide” buried under four inches of sand in a plastic container. There can be up to 16 containers of sand or water to choose from depending on the level. Cricket is owned by John and Jeannette O’Hanlon of Albany and took up nosework as a senior dog. Photo contributed

COPAKE—You don’t have to be a dog owner to know dogs like to smell stuff.

Not only do dogs love to give their old schnozzolas a workout—they are also good at it and they have fun doing it.

According to an article on the American Kennel Club (AKC) website (www.akc.org/expert-advice/news/the-nose-knows/), “The Nose Knows: Is There Anything Like a Dog’s Nose?” by Jan Reisen, dog “noses are at least 100,000 times more sensitive than ours. In fact, smelling could be called the dog’s superpower. Not only does [a dog] have more olfactory receptors than humans, the dog’s snout is structured in such a way that, while [it] is sniffing out odors, [it] doesn’t exhale and disturb even the faintest of scents. And the part of the brain that processes smells is seven times larger in dogs than in humans.”

Anyone interested in seeing some superlative smeller dogs and their humans play sophisticated scent games need only show up at the American Pitt Bull Terrier Club of New England (APBTCONE) sponsored Nosework Match at Copake Memorial Park, 305 Mountain View Road, Saturday, January 28 starting at 8:30 a.m. and lasting into the afternoon when all the smells have been sniffed.

Joan McMaster of Copake Falls, a member of the APBTCONE, spoke to The Columbia Paper recently about the sport of nosework and the upcoming event that she organized at the park.

The APBTCONE is an all-breed club, one of the oldest in New England. The club has been hosting UKC events for more than 25 years. The club name has historical significance because it is the first in New England and chooses to maintain the name even though it welcomes all breeds.

The dogs entered in the upcoming nosework event will range from American Pit Bull Terriers to American Eskimos to Springer Spaniels, said Ms. McMaster.

Thirty-nine dogs, competitors from RI, NH, MA, CT and NY will participate in 125 entry classes which are already filled to capacity.

There are events for every dog and handler at every experience level. There is no requirement for United Kennel Club (UKC) registration and no prerequisite requirements.

Dogs have been using their noses to help humans since they decided to be best friends.

But the real demand worldwide for detection dogs skyrocketed with 9/11, said Ms. McMaster.

Dogs are used professionally to find drugs; bugs, such as bed bugs or invasive species like lantern flies; cadavers; bombs; electronics, like hard or thumb drives where someone might store pornography; and to find various smuggled materials in airports.

Cynthia M. Otto, DVM, PhD at the University of Pennsylvania PennVet Working Dog Center took her scent-trained dogs to the Twin Towers and spent four-days working there to find victims. Her research has expanded to scent detection of cancer types and other diseases, said Ms. McMaster.

“We have not fully discovered” all an animal’s abilities, she said, noting a dog can walk into a yard and know who walked through there in the past few weeks, how fast they were walking and what the weather was.

German shepherds and other dog breeds are used not only in cadaver work by assisting police to find murder victims, but also to help people find their ancestors, such as in long-forgotten graveyards or unmarked graves. They also help find lost children or people who may be hurt or disabled.

Connected to the increase in breeding and training of detection dogs for professional use, the sport of nosework, also known as, scent work, has emerged. The sport is open to all breeds, “all dogs can use their nose, and many breeds do well,” said Ms. McMaster.

The majority of nosework teams (handlers and dogs) who participate in events go to have fun and to see their dogs do well. While some people go play golf, pet people take their dogs to obedience class and train for nosework. As a team, they go to trials or matches. Everyone has lunch together and cheers each other on. They are social events.

“In this area and county there are serious dog people and many competitive breeders who want to be able to say ‘my dogs are bred to excel at this training,’” Ms. McMaster said.

Many people and dogs are not satisfied just lying on the couch, she said, noting that when her children were small, she taught her dog to pick up their toys, wake the children up for school and keep an eye on them out in the yard. She even taught her dog to help her feed the chickens.

The now retired, Ms. McMaster, who was a global commodities manager with IBM for 32 years, said she would recommend that those interested, find a good trainer, one who knows your dog breed and uses positive reinforcement to teach.

The upcoming nosework match will have classes in master handler discrimination, novice containers, novice and advanced vehicles, superior and elite interiors. Dogs will be asked to find “hides” bearing a certain scent hidden in containers, cars and in rooms. One of the more difficult challenges involves trying a locate a personal item belonging to the dog’s handler within a certain time limit.

There is no admission charge for spectators. Proceeds from the $10/class event entry fees will go toward covering the cost of the event.

Ribbons will be awarded to qualifying teams.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com

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