OkcPets Magazine March 2021

18 OKC Pets • March/April 2021 N O S E WO R K Helps a Blind Dog See WRITTEN BY: David Gallant I t was Saturday, and our Nosework class started just like many other classes we’ve taught over the years. First-day classes with a group of dogs and their eager-to-learn handlers are always fun and chaotic. The dogs are gazing and raising their noses in the air to sniff out a familiar odor of an- other dog or person. This canine-smelling ritual is all about sizing up the room. “Is it safe? Do I know any of these people and their four-legged friends? I smell treats!” For humans in the class, it is like being a student in a new school classroom. “What chair do I sit in? What do I do first? Whom do I know in the room?” And, of course, “I hope my dog does not pee on the floor, sniff or growl at another dog.” Our friend, Angie, joined the Nosework class with her foster dog, Hopper. Angie rescues Australian Shepherds and cares for them in her home. Angie rescued Hopper’s mother a few days before her litter was due. Of the four pup- pies, Hopper was the only one born blind and deaf, a genetic result of double merle breeding. Many people are unaware that breeding two merle Aussies together will mean their puppies have a 25% chance of being born as a double merle. Double merle puppies have excessive white coloration or lack of pigment, which can cause loss of hearing, vision or any combination of the two impairments. Because of this genetic abnormality, Angie expected difficulty in finding a suitable for- ever home for Hopper. Angie began exposing Hopper to lots of external stimuli, from walks around the block and playgrounds to outings in the park. These extra adventures would help Hopper adjust to being in unknown places as she matured. A Dog’s Nose Knows The same techniques we teach in Nosework are used to train diabetic alert dogs, PTSD service dogs, cancer detection dogs and other medical alert dogs. They all have one thing in common: using the dog’s nose. Nosework is a sport for all dogs—young, old, Hopper when she joined the Nosework class Puppy Hopper Photo courtesy of Madonna Gallant