Updated: Jan 10
Recently, I had the opportunity to check out The Scent Den, the first immersive dog sensory space in North America and located in Toronto.
It was a transforming experience!
During my visit, I also had a chance to sit, sniff and talk to Helen Moore, co-owner of Wholesome Canine, Canine Training and Behaviour expert and a member of both the Pet Dog Trainers of Europe (PDTE) and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), who filled me in on the workings of The Scent Den and why dog owners should consider checking it out.
Henry Toller Tails (HTT): Hello Helen, thank you for taking the time to help me explain The Scent Den experience. Could you please describe, for humans, what the Scent Den is and how it works?
Helen Moore (HM): The Scent Den is an enrichment space for dogs designed to activate all the senses—smell, taste, touch etc. It is filled with lots of interesting smells from animals and places, different textured objects as well as treat filled puzzle toys and much more.
HTT: How did the Scent Den come into being?
HM: I learned about enriched environments during my training with Turid Rugaas, we put a lot of focus on mental stimulation for our dogs as it’s vital to good emotional and mental health. A colleague in the UK, Kirsty Grant, opened the first enrichment space for dogs called The Dog Nose in Swindon and we were lucky enough to spend time with Kirsty and see her space and ask her a million questions. She really inspired us to get one up and running here in Toronto.
HTT: Tell me a bit about yourself and how you came to work with dogs.
HM: Like most of us in this profession I came to it through a desire to help my own dog, Seamus. We had various challenges in his early years including digestive issues as well as some behavioural problems. I also owned, and operated, a dog walking business for several years and attracted the “problem” dogs. I loved learning from them and desperately wanted them to be able to enjoy their walks with me, to have friends and feel confident in their environments.
HTT: What can humans visiting with their dog for the first time expect?
HM: A Scent Den session is a fantastic way for people to really observe their dogs, it’s not often we spend quiet time just being with them and watching as they navigate the world. During the session you really get to know what your dog likes, or dislikes, if certain things make them nervous and also how they problem solve and the confidence they gained from that.
HTT: How many dogs can use the Scent Den at one time?
HM: There is only one dog allowed at a time to ensure the best possible, uninterrupted experience.
HTT: How old should a dog be to get the best experience out of the Scent Den? Is there an age limit?
HM: I’d say the minimum age would be 4 months.
HTT: What is your favourite memory so far of dogs visiting?
HM: My favourite was definitely Hadley, a rescue Australian Shepherd. She’s deaf and partially blind but you would never know watching her in the Scent Den. She was amazing to watch, her confidence is beautiful, and she left the place looking like a tornado had blown through and that’s a sign of a great time in the Den!
HTT: What dogs would be helped the most from a visit to the Scent Den?
HM: While the Scent Den is amazing for all dogs, it is truly beneficial for extremely anxious/stressed dogs and also seniors, or dogs recovering from surgery or injury.
HTT: What benefits have dog owners seen after their dog has visited the Scent Den?
HM: The most notable feedback has been from senior dog parents whose pups have cognitive dysfunction, they reported no pacing or restless behaviours for up to two days after their sessions. That just goes to show how much these mental workouts can help work and strengthen the brain.
Senior dogs may not be so mobile, but their noses are on point and their mental capabilities are still so sharp, working the brain muscle goes a long way in prevention of cognitive dysfunction.
HTT: Thank you so much for sitting down with me. For humans who are interested in reading about my own Scent Den experience as well as seeing pictures and videos of me in the Scent Den, then check out the Toller Tails Instgram page as well as my own Henry Toller Tails Instagram Page.