While dogs can use their “instinctive sniffing” instincts to get into garbage, shopping bags and all kinds of trouble, Menomonee Falls business owner Mary Hanneman is using these instincts to create a fun training experience for dogs and their owners.
Hanneman, who lives in Brookfield, uses National Association of Canine Scent Work Nose Work K-9 training for dogs of all ages.
“When the dog is sniffing (an object), the dog uses a lot of brainpower, and a tired dog is much easier to live with,” said Hanneman. “Many people learn Nose Work because it is a simple, fun thing to do with their dog and lets their pup have fun sniffing.”
Her business – Nosey Pup, which she started in August — offers individual and long-term dog training classes. Because of COVID-19, she is also offering classes on Zoom.
She uses her dog, Danika — otherwise known as Dani, Sweetpea or Dani Banani — as a training model.
Hanneman, who had a career in training and development, started the business when her full-time position was eliminated due to COVID-19-related reasons in April. She said she is using her love of dogs, her teaching background and her technology training for Nosey Pup.
She also is a volunteer teacher at the K-9 Obedience Training Club in Menomonee Falls.
Zoom class provides a foundation
Hanneman said her Zoom classes are designed to provide foundational skills to the handler and dog so they can both advance to learning odor-sniffing skills.
According to the Nosey Pup website, a cotton swab is scented with a target odor and is then placed in a container, which the dog then searches for.
“We start off with engaging the dog to use its nose to find food in cardboard boxes,” she said of the six-week Zoom class.
“Each week, (participants) will get information in advance of the session on what skills we will work on and the setup that we will be using. Each dog is different and might have sensitivities to noise, cautious of new things or be overly bold, so the class is customized to bring out their natural hunting instinct so each dog can be confident in searching,” Hanneman explained.
She said each dog and handler will have multiple opportunities during each session to perform the skills of the day while Hanneman coaches them.
“At the end of the six weeks, the dogs will have foundational skills to move onto the Introduction to Odor class,” she said.
“(Sniffing) channels that instinct into finding something that we put into the environment, and the dog learns that finding it earns a reward. People love doing things with their dogs, as they are part of the family,” she said.
“Your dog is a family member, and you want to spend time with your pup doing fun things,” added Hanneman.
Odor-sniffing is the same idea used in training many working dogs, she said, such as “police dogs looking for drugs, agricultural dogs working to find prohibited fruits or vegetables, detection dogs looking for bed bugs or termites.”
There is some evidence to suggest dogs can even be trained to sniff out COVID-19 on people, according to the New York Times.
But for Hanneman, the stakes aren’t quite so high.
“I hope they will increase their bond with their dog, learn new things and have fun,” she said. “For those who are more competitive, I am there to help them problem solve and learn more complex skills so they can advance to higher levels.”
She also teaches puppy classes and puppy day training as a part of her business.
Among the dog breeds that are easy to train are Border Collie, poodle, Miniature Schnauzer, Labrador, and German Shepherd. Other breeds like Shiba Inu and bulldogs, however, can be more difficult to train.