Thinking “Outside the Kennel”: Nose Work

by JessiFreud • Posted in: Awareness/ PR

Recently, we’ve been talking a lot about the “Last 10%” – that is, the last piece of Austin’s No Kill puzzle that is still being killed at our city shelter. This demographic is made up of large adult dogs with treatable behavior challenges. Our Louie’s Fresh Start (LFS) program, which you may have heard of, is APA!’s signature remedy to get these dogs out of Austin Animal Center and into our behavior training and enrichment program.

As we zero in to conquer this piece of the puzzle, the dogs we are getting continue to require more resources, more time, and “outside the kennel” thinking to make sure we’re satisfying their mental and emotional needs. This has pushed the LFS program volunteer handlers to become extra crafty and creative with how they plan to help these dogs to reach their full potential.

Since the completion of the “Life Room” Project, LFS handlers now have quiet, relaxing, and private spaces to amp up their training plans with the LFS dogs. This space, combined with the dog behavior team’s weekly Group Training class, provides a host of opportunities to make sure we’re fulfilling these dogs every need. Keeping large dogs mentally stimulated in a shelter environment is super important. Another one of our most recent solutions has been incorporating basic Nose Work into training and behavior enrichment plans.

Nose Work is an easy-to-do activity that capitalizes on a dog’s natural instinct to use its nose to problem solve. The biggest “problem” a dog’s nose is supposed to solve? Finding food! LFS handlers started collecting cardboard boxes in a variety of sizes to hide treats in. We also use “Life Room” props as another vehicle to hide the smelliest of noms. Thank you to Cathy Cobb at Austin Dog Sports who offers this class to the public and allowed us to take part one night.

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During a recent training class, we took this physically and mentally challenging activity and incorporated it. It was a huge hit! Oliver, a.k.a. Ollenpig (who recently was adopted!), and Leroy caught on so quickly. Both are was easily Nose Work stars. Volunteer Amy Fitzsimmons also gave Myley a one-on-one lesson on Nose Work. You can see how Myley did in the video below (hint: super amazingly awesome). The results are fantastic: confident, tired dogs that are developing a natural skill that they can eventually take with them to their forever home.


As we continue to think of creative ways to help save the “Last 10%”, the Group Training class will be one of the many forums the LFS program uses to try out new, fun stimulating activities. In order for these dogs to be ready to go home, we need to be help them overcome their behavioral challenges in not-so-traditional ways. We will continue to think “outside the kennel” until we are able to save each and every treatable “Last 10%” dog.

We have started a drive to raise funds to hire professional dog behaviorists help us work with and develop training plans for the dogs needing behavior support.  Can you commit to $25 per month to pay for an hour of professional training per month?  Our goal is to build up to 100 hours of training per month so we can save more of Austin’s homeless dogs this year!

You can set up a recurring or one-time donation here – just select “dog behavior program” in the program dropdown so we know your donation is to pay for training.  And $25/month makes you part of our Constant Companion Club!

Visit our program page and follow the LFS dogs on facebook to see how else you can help give these dogs a chance.