Expanding the Search.. Building the Nose Work Game

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One of the great things about doing K9 Nose Work is that it is mobile and eventually encompasses any environment you may find yourself. However, there is very important foundation work that is the key to you and your dog finding long-term success and helping your dog build stamina and interest in the search.

After following the steps in the first part of this saga (Getting Started in Nose Work) and if your dog’s eyes pop out of their head at the sight of any container or cardboard box your dog may be ready to expand the search and increase the challenge.

Now that you’ve worked your boxes in your house or other easily accessible and familiar environments you can start increasing the challenge for your dog. We start increasing difficulty for the dog by adding novel items brought into the environment by students. We do keep some of the boxes present to help the dog see that the game is still on or if we need to recover them if the search we planned is too challenging. Never allow your dog to fail.

The need to bring in outside items will of course depend on the space in which you are training. If you are working in a naturally enriched environment the need to bring in outside items is not as critical. But again, every environment can become uninspiring to the dog if we don’t alter it on occasion.

At this point it is also beneficial to start elevating the boxes to encourage the dog to search high as well as at ground level. You’ll want to develop patterns in your dog so that he learns to search both high and low and to work the odor even if it is not on the ground. You can start by placing your boxes on top of each other or putting the boxes on a chair or other stable object.

When available try to tape your dog's search so you can start to see the first moments your dog’s body language changes when they are starting to pick up the odor of their target. These initial body changes will be your initial opportunity to see at what point your dog starts to “alert” you to the odor location and to develop the skill needed to be a true partner with your dog.

Happy Hunting!