Canine competition sniffs out the winners
BY KARA SPAK firstname.lastname@example.org February 20, 2013 4:54PM
International Kennel Club
8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 23-24
McCormick Place North,
2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
Tickets: $20 for adults, $14 for seniors and free for children up to age 12 with the purchase of an adult ticket. Two-day passes are $25 for adults, $18 for seniors.
Updated: March 23, 2013 6:08AM
It’s the latest trend in canine competition, a fast-growing extracurricular where dogs of any size and age can compete.
The sport called “nose work” pits dogs’ sniffers against each other in the search for scent. And families attending the 2013 International Cluster of Dog Shows at McCormick Place North on Feb. 23-24 can get a close look at the competition.
“It’s a great sport,” said Nancy Reyes, owner of For Your K9 in Melrose Park, Ill., a dog training and day care that offers nose work, agility, drill team and obedience classes.
Reyes will be showcasing her students’ nose work at 2:15 p.m. each day of the show, bringing suitcases, barrels and boxes to challenge the hounds in finding the scent.
“It’s a great confidence builder for the dogs,” she said. “It’s watching the dogs do what comes natural and watching the dogs problem-solve where to find the odor.”
Created in 2006 by three people who work with professional detection dogs, the sport of nose work has its roots in canine search-and-rescue.
These hero dogs regularly work with law enforcement to find injured people, cadavers or drugs or weapons. Nose work offers the opportunity to train any dog in finding scents in vehicles, outdoor areas, interior rooms and containers, like suitcases.
While not every dog may make the cut as a deputized K9 officer, nose work allows any dog the satisfaction of connecting with its most primal instinct, something that was lost when dogs started eating food from a bowl instead of hunting for dinner.
Nose work lets a dog fully revel in its dog essence, Reyes said.
“Dogs already know what to do,” Reyes said. “It’s the humans we are teaching.” Competitive nose work dogs hunt for the scents of birch, clove and anise. Reyes said some of her students compete while others take the class as a chance to connect more closely with their pets.
On a recent February day, dog owners of all ages bundled up against the cold so they could lead their leashed dogs on the search for scent hidden in a small tin on a Honda CRV parked outside For Your K9.
One of those searching for scent was Jamie, a sheltie working with owner Becky Jankowski of Downers Grove, Ill. Jankowski first enrolled Jamie and Bonnie, another sheltie, in nose work classes a year ago. She plans to compete with them this summer.
“This turns them on like nothing else I do,” Jankowski said. “I take such joy in watching them. They tune everything else out when they know they should be looking for a scent.”
Unlike agility competitions, where dogs run through an obstacle course, a dog does not have to be a certain size or age to compete in nose work.
“Any breed can do it,” Reyes said. “All dogs can do it.”
More than 10,000 dogs from 160 breeds will be performing and competing for top dog honors at the annual show, sponsored by the International Kennel Club of Chicago.
In addition to the show competition, the show offers an opportunity for children ages 9 to 19 years old to participate in junior dog judging.
Reyes will also be demonstrating agility and drill team work, including a dog-human drill team dance to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
Reyes suggested if parents and children are heading to the show with the intention of adding a four-legged friend to their household, they should seriously consider the commitment necessary for dog ownership.
“They should really be learning about what the different breeds are designed to do,” she said. “It’s a commitment for the life of the dog.”
At this annual show, dogs compete against one another for best in breed awards and the best of the best, the coveted Best in Show prize. More than 10,000 purebred dogs in 160 breeds compete or display skills, turning McCormick Place North into the ultimate dog lovers’ delight.
Humans at the show are welcome to watch the competition and stroll into the preparation areas to watch the dogs being prepared for the big event and ask questions about specific breeds.