K9 Nosework Anyone?

Discussion in 'Dog Sports' started by jackienmutts, Jun 30, 2012.

  1. jackienmutts Honored Member

    Was wondering if anyone else here was involved in the sport of K9 Nosework? We got involved about 2 yrs ago, and it's been maybe the best thing I could ever have done for my two dogs. For those who don't know what it is, it's scentwork based on the same techniques detection dogs use - dogs following their noses in search of a target odor, handlers following and supporting their dogs. The sport was founded by detection dog handlers, altho thankfully using essential oils: birch, anise, and clove as the target odors (and not bombs or drugs). All dogs work alone during each search, which has proven to be fabulous - as all dogs can compete in this sport. This has been amazing for Makena - she definitely needed an outlet for her abilities, and this has been perfect. Alfie is my 'special needs' guy, and altho I don't compete with him, he does well at it. He does a lot of the same searches Makena does - sometimes he's successful, sometimes I help him a bit - but he always has fun, and that's the only important thing.

    One of the things I love most about this sport is that all the competitors are so supportive of each other (as opposed to some other dog sports, which can get very competitive). Everyone wants to see every dog/handler team succeed. We do have to trust and rely on our dogs, and train/practice hard - but we also have to remember that we're a team and we (as humans) do play an important role. We have to assist our dogs sometimes - they may forget to search areas, they have to search some elements on-leash and may keep going round and round - it's up to us to reverse their 'circle' (so to speak) so they possibly can catch odor from a different direction, we know when time is running out (they don't nor care), etc. We're totally the supporting cast - but we do have to be there for them and support them when needed.

    It's also proven to be a big confidence builder in shy dogs. Yes - it has. I've seen this one myself, and heard others involved in the sport attest to it. Perhaps it's because shy dogs can finally find something they feel they're really good at - who knows? (If only they could talk, huh?) Seems this has been just an amazing sport for so many dogs with 'issues'. I've seen Makena's (dog) aggression greatly reduced since beginning Nosework. Yes, she's always a work in progress - but overall, she's a much more confident dog now, and doesn't seem to have that need to 'lash out' like she did for so long.

    So - on July 21 we'll be driving to Salinas (about 150 miles) to try for our NW2 title. I'm a bit nervous, but trying not to be. We're training hard. She's doing a great job. She's got a great work ethic, she works hard, loves nosework, and I've got to trust her when she's working - and trust her when she 'alerts'. Here's hoping we're successful!!

    Here are 2 links if any of you want to know more. The first is from Karen Pryor's site - it's a pretty good overview on what it is, all the levels, etc....

    And this one is about the first GSD to title in Nosework. Barbara and Landis have since gone on to complete their NW3 title - 3 times, which means they now hold an NW3 Elite (one of only very few dogs) - the highest title one can hold. They received this at the trials when I volunteered just a couple weeks ago. It was such an honor to watch them work!! Barbara has been such a fabulous mentor to me, and I've learned so much from her. She and Landis are such an inspiration and I could only hope to be that good some day!!

    I'd love to know if anyone else on the forum is involved in Nosework, classes are springing up all over - I've never heard anyone else mention it. Anyone out there???

  2. tigerlily46514 Honored Member


    My dog has a grrrrrrrrreat nose, very excellent nose! I do informal "nosework" with him, and never cease to be amazed at his focus during nosework,
    he will not give up,
    he will not quit no matter HOW LONG it takes,
    he will not be distracted off of his "hunt" for his hidden toy, hidden treat-puzzle, and almost all empty containers that he can lick out the last dab, get hidden in his fairly huge backyard which has a 'wild" area in back of it, (Buddy's yard is not like, a square of grass,but has over 80 trees in it, tons of plants of all sizes, and no idea how many shrubs, etc.)

    No matter how long it takes, Buddy never ever ever forgets what he is doing, and continues to search and sniff around, nonstop, never ever quits.

    We play "search and rescue" all the time, outdoors or in his yard. I put Buddy in a "stay" in some room he can not see what i amdoing,
    i walk around with item to all various areas, so make it harder for him to track my footsteps,
    and hide item,
    then go back indoors to praise Buddy for holding his stay when he KNOWS i have a toy or treat-puzzle, and set him to find the item.

    sometimes, if it is a toy he knows well, i will show him which toy he IS going to have to find first, if it will be set in an area with other toys--------but not always, if it will be ONLY toy in area.

    buddy also hunts toys he knows the specific name of, too, which is not really "nosework" though, so far as i know.

    Sometimes, i hide ME, too, and he does find me fairly quickly, but, occasionally, he does have to search for several minutes now and then, if i've hidden myself well enough. If i hide me, i either have someone else release Buddy to
    "find mommy"
    or i call him, "Buddy, COME!" ---one time---from my hiding place.

    Buddy :love: LOVES:love: finding things, but, i've always just guessed at how to play this with him, i will check out your links!
  3. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    What is your dog's trained alert, Jackie?
    I'm always stunned, that on tv, most SAR dogs seem to be trained to "sit" for their alert, which always stuns me,
    that a bark is not used instead,:eek: or ANYTHING more obvious than a "sit" <---which a bored dog, a tired dog, an overheated dog, or a dog zoning out could all do a sit...

    Jackie, do they explain why so many SAR dogs are taught to "sit" for their alert, instead of some cue that would be more difficult for dog to perform accidentally? like a bark, or a whine, or one paw up, or a down with head down, or a rollover:LOL: , or anything that is a lil more specific???
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  4. jackienmutts Honored Member

    I'm not sure about SAR dogs - but in Nosework, dogs will almost have their own alert once the communication between you and the dog begins to build (as you grow in the sport). Some Nosework dogs will sit - however this isn't always good, cuz in Nosework, we need to be able to call "alert" when the dog has found the odor, and we (as handlers) must know right where the odor is (or be able to tell the judge where it is at a trial if it's not obvious to them). If your dog's alert is a 'sit', you had better darn well know where their nose was right before they sat down. :confused:

    Makena's alert is a good one - once she finds the odor, she stands perfectly still, and turns and looks at me -- hey, hey, it's right here!!! :LOL: You develop that by, right from the very beginning, rushing to feed right at the odor the instant the dog finds the odor. As time goes on, you hesitate a few seconds - the dog then sticks at the odor, and an official 'alert' starts to develop. Some dogs prefer toy rewards to food - most start out with food rewards, then as they advance, you figure out what your own dog prefers, and go with it. Makena is a foodie and chicken is her heaven. :love: I rotate all kinds of food rewards (hot dogs, cheese, liver, bison, chicken, beef, etc) but I know chicken is her be-all, end-all favorite.

    I'm sure with SAR dogs, as with detection dogs, a certain amt of addtl training goes into specific 'alerts', as you can't have a dog pawing at bombs, people, etc. You also may not want SAR or detection dogs making noise, and in certain circumstances it may not be condusive for them to lie down, etc. In nosework, you want dogs sticking as close to the odor as possible, yet sometimes the odor will be inaccessible (up too high, under a car, in a cabinet, etc) and you'll need to be able to read your dog and be able to know, by looking at your dog, where that odor is. I've seen some dogs stare at the odor, some sit, some lie down - I've seen all kinds of things since volunteering at trials. Dogs are gonna communicate in all kinds of ways, and as long as the handler understands their dog, it's all good. :)
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  5. Amateur Experienced Member

    We play " Smell it, Find it " basically find the hidden cookies but this sounds great
    May even let the dogs find it before that cat eats all the prizes
  6. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    OHhhh, i always thought the "sit" was an actual trained ressponse, not something that just evolved between handler and dog,
    but rather,
    something dog was specifically trained to do when he smells that scent. I see dogs trained to find drugs, or bombs, or other items, all "sit" near the area, or the suitcase, or whatever.

    Yes, the handler has to pay attention, i'd think, on tv the handlers have SAR dogs on leash, (which also surprises me) not running free, so the handlers are ALWAYS near the dog....
    on tv, i once saw an arson dog, trained to find fire-accelerants in burnt houses, who was trained to touch his nose to the exact item he found, and freeze/pose there, with his nose down,
    so they'd know which sample to test, and i thought, "now THAT is clever!":eek: I can't remember if dog also barked, too, or just kept his nose pushed onto the sample.

    But soooo many scent dogs are trained to sit when they find the scent or item, or some other fairly vague position, which always surprises me.

    I should try to advance Buddy to just do a pose when he finds his prize, rather than letting him have it.:ROFLMAO: :rolleyes: It won't be easy at this stage of the game!!:LOL:
    Buddy's cue, IF IF IF i could ever train him to do a specific pose when he finds his prize, rather than just drag item out of the bushes,:ROFLMAO: which is what Buddy does now,
    his pose won't be a sit or a look at me, as he already glances at me now and then, and very rarely, on long hunts, will sit briefly when he looks around if it is very very hot outside.

    It's hard to imagine a scenario where a handler and dog would be endangered if dog barks...but, nothing's impossible. I think when snipers and stuff are around, they don't send in search dogs, and evacuate entire area, near as i can tell by watching tv.:LOL:
    I considered a lie down might be messier than a sit, if area was covered in biohazard stuff or mud or oil, but, a sit would probably also be messy in that situation, too, it seems...my dog's fur on his haunches is his thickest, longest fur...

    I will have to think up a most obvious cue that i can train Buddy to do when he finds it. It will be a challenge to train this, after years of "i find it--i get it!":ROFLMAO: It will be hard to change to rules of a well known game, not sure i can at this point...?:confused: I think i'd have to use just ONE scent, too, til buddy gets idea "i smell peanut butter---i hold up one paw" or bark or whatever. THEN, maybe, when he gets idea, i could add in other scents....

    and once he is trained to hold up one paw when peanut butter is held in front of him,
    and then move item a bit, reward the paw up,
    and then further, and further,
    and hiding it juuust slightly, and rewarding Buddy's one paw up, advancing along,
    so we'd end up "hunting" again the way we do now....only instead of dragging item out, :ROFLMAO: Buddy would just hold one paw up, and wait for me to give it to him...or whatever pose i pick out....

    one paw up might be hard to hold for any length of time. NOW THAT I THINK ABOUT IT MORE, IT IS KIND OF HARD TO THINK OF A GOOD POSE FOR A DOG TO DO WHEN HE FINDS ITEM, ISN'T IT!!???
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  7. jackienmutts Honored Member

    SAR and Detection dogs are trained to a final response - nosework dogs are not. The founders have encouraged us to let our dogs basically let their alerts evolve to whatever they become - they may start out as a few things, and as time goes on, they get more and more refined.

    SAR and Detection dogs' alerts need to be very specific, depending on what they're doing. Think about it - a bomb detection dog would need a very specific, yet a very passive alert. Most likely a 'sit'. You wouldn't want a bomb detection dog putting their nose, or in any way touching a bomb once they found it. Just find it, and alert someone - but don't touch it in any way. Same with drug detection dogs. You wouldn't want them touching them at all. The dogs' lives could be endangered in either of these scenarios. SAR dogs can't paw at people once they find them - but they clearly need to have a specific way of 'alerting' so a 'sit' is a good way to say "I'm finished, I've found what I'm looking for". It may not be the alert used by all in every case - but it's used in many cases because it's passive, keeps everyone out of trouble, yet gets the point across immediately. There are dogs used in huge mail facilities that search for plants in mail, etc - I believe they can paw at boxes. In that case, there might be a huge stack of boxes and a dog would know where the plant was - we'd only see a stack of boxes but wouldn't know which one the dog was referring to. A 'sit' would be useless. Every situation is different. They train responses based on what scenario the dog is working and how the dog is being used. It's all good - we just have to learn to read them and trust their noses. (y)
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  8. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    //" SAR and Detection dogs are trained to a final response - nosework dogs are not."//

    OHhhhh......so nosework dogs are just observed by their handlers, to note when dog has found it? NO specific response, you just know from past experiences observing what the dog usually does when he finds item? ohhhh..

    Jackie, did you have to specifically train a "leave it",
    or , did dog somehow just come to understand that by how you trained the dog?
    or, wait, are nosework dogs allowed to grab the item they find?
    or nosework dogs are just supposed to signal their handler?

    YES!! so true, no one would want a dog grabbing a bag of dope, or a bomb, in his mouth! yes, i realized that!!:ROFLMAO:
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  9. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    lol, i have always lumped detection dogs
    in with SAR dogs,
    as i thought the S was for "search" was included there, in SAR, too.

    I guess it IS far better to say 'SAR and detection' dogs, not just lump them all under SAR.:LOL: cuz diabetes detection service dogs are not really "searching" :rolleyes: , nor are cancer detection dogs...
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  10. jackienmutts Honored Member

    "OHhhhh......so nosework dogs are just observed by their handlers, to note when dog has found it? NO specific response, you just know from past experiences observing what the dog usually does when he finds item? ohhhh.."
    Well - not exactly. The Nosework dogs start out 'finding' treats (food) in a box, then food paired with the the essential oils (the odor they will eventually be searching for) outside of a box, then in different locaions (a room, then elsewhere). As the food is faded, the dog then searches only for the odor (of that essential oil). The dog (talking only Nosework dogs, here) starts developing it's own way of communicating with it's handler. Honestly, I've shared my life with many dogs - and I've never had such a strong communication with any dog! Makena and I have learned to communicate with each other (out of necessity) thru this journey like no other. I have had to learn to read her, to understand when she's frustrated, when she needs me to just wait her out (cuz she's busy), when she needs me to help her out, step back, all kinds of stuff. When she finally is "in odor" (meaning, she smells it and is close and is trying to source it), I know I need to step back at that point and let her work. Once she's got it (sourced it), she'll stop and freeze and turn and stare at me, make total eye contact, and she won't budge. We practice at that. The way we do that - and it's also to make sure the dog is really sure they've got it, and not just tired and saying "we'll this do?" is we'll kind of start to step away. If the dog doesn't budge, you know they're positive. Makena will often then look back at the odor, and back at me. If she does that, I'll know "she ain't lyin' to me!" :LOL: If I think at all that she may be tired or questioning "hey, I'm not sure but maybe this will fly?" and I start to step away and she gets back to work trying to source it better, I'll know she doesn't quite have it narrowed down but usually she'll continue to work right at the same spot til she's got it. If she totally walks away, I know she was fakin' me out. She really doesn't do that anymore, but at the beginning it happened a few times. :ROFLMAO: (Yep, she lied to me!!:eek:) That was usually in class (great huh?) - but there could have been (and most likely was) risidual odor left from previous hides in other classes, so she was most likely smelling the right odor, but only faintly - and they have to learn to smell enough to find the source of it, and not just a little waft coming from some unknown place. Training, and practice. :cool: Oh, and did I say, the dog always always always gets rewarded when they find the odor - even when they miss it in a trial. They may be wrong, but the judge will then take you to where the odor is and let the dog 'find it' so they can be rewarded. :)

    They also have to learn to ignore all other scents and distractions. We work a lot in pastures and fields - so they have to learn to ignore all the smells of critters (sorry Buddy, you'd have to ignore those bunnies for a while!!:confused:), pee smells, gophers, you name it. No payoff in those. They really learn to concentrate, focus - and ignore everything else. That's been one of the reasons, they feel, that they've seen many reactive dogs become much calmer once they get involved in Nosework -- they 1) become more confident, and 2) learn to somewhat ignore some of their surroundings instead of constantly being so aware of absolutely everything. I was laying down hides last week in an area in back of our library. Makena was in the car. A bunny was munching away happily in the middle of the grass as I went to lay a hide down. Hmmm.... I told that bunny that unless he had a death wish, he needed to go home to his family!! He wandered on, no rush - but I was glad - I watched exactly where he wandered and disappeared. A bit later, I brought Makena out to search and it was cool to watch her body language change. She did a good search, but tightened up when she smelled that bunny. ;) I watched her really closely, cuz sometimes when she's searching and sniffing an area for a bit, I'll wonder - is she crittering or searching?? I knew this time, so could really examine her body language. She took me on a really quick detour, followed the "bunny trail" to the bushes, then right back to searching (I deliterately did a hide fairly close to the bunny bush) and another about 15' away. She really didn't spend much time, maybe 10 seconds - I was proud of her, cuz that was fresh bunny!! She was all business, I couldn't have asked for more.
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  11. GEORGE'SDAD Well-Known Member

    How about a "point"? I have seen many different breeds of dogs do this, so it is a natural behavior.:cool:
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  12. jackienmutts Honored Member

    A point is def a natural 'alert' behavior.
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  13. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    //"they have to learn to ignore all the smells of critters (sorry Buddy, you'd have to ignore those bunnies for a while!!:confused:),"//

    buddy can and does ingore the bunny scents, gopher scents, etc, allllllllll over his very large yard, when he is looking for his toy or puzzle. Buddy's yard has about 80 trees in it, and more bushes, plants and shrubs than i can count, and a "wild" area:eek:in back of his yard, too.

    I've never seen him searching when an actual bunny goes by,
    i imagine the actual bunny would get Buddy's att'n, but, this scenario has never happened ever once yet.

    but the bunny's scent? oh heck yeah, my yard is full of the scents of bunnies, chipmuncks, skunks, moles, gophers, raccoons, deers, all have scents allllllllllll over my yard.
    still, Buddy tracks down his toy, or puzzle or whatever it is he was told to find.

    lol, we have fresh bunny scents every few hours in my yard...:ROFLMAO:
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  14. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    yeah, my dog points very briefly right before he chases down and kills a bunny. that is why i suggested maybe "one paw up" as an alert signal,

    but, i am beginning to think in nosework,
    the dog sort of picks out their own alert,
    instead of performing a specific trained alert....not sure, but it seems to be the case...
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  15. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    //"That's been one of the reasons, they feel, that they've seen many reactive dogs become much calmer once they get involved in Nosework -- they 1) become more confident, and 2) learn to somewhat ignore some of their surroundings instead of constantly being so aware of absolutely everything. "//

    Yes, i so agree,
    and i often say, "Daily training of ANY type will help a reactive dog" and i always always suggest this for reactive dogs of any type.
    I think the list of reasons daily training of any type helps,
    be it tricks, agility, doggie dancing, flyball, heelwork, obedience, nosework, whatever,
    is endless.
    I think training helps dogs in so so so many ways, we might not even be able to explain how training helps a reactive dog,
    but, i can easily spot the difference,
    in how much harder it is to manage buddy
    if i have NOT been training him daily.

    I think training OF ANY TYPE, helps a dog develop focus, (on whatever, be it a scents or doggie dancing:rolleyes: or agility or tricks or anything )
    and develop a longer attention span,
    learn to follow their humans cues better,
    helps the human learn how to motivate the dog better,
    satisfies the dog's urge to do something/use his mind/figure something out,
    helps the dog be more contented,
    helps strengthen the dog/human bond,
    gives the owner of a reactive dog a chance to have FUN with their dog,
    helps prevent boredom/gives a dog a chance to blow off steam
    helps the human hone their ability to teach a dog things, which IS key, imo,
    develops and hones the dog/human communication and two-way understanding,
    just tons and tons of possibilities,
    on why training reactive dogs to do anything,
    and advancing that to training amidst distractions,
    helps the human have easier time to reduce this dog's reactivity.

    dawg, this here post of mine, almost word for word of a msg i sent someone this week on reactive dogs!! :ROFLMAO: I SO AGREE, reactive dogs need training!!! on anything! It's always a great first step for any owner of a reactive dog,
    is just even train the dog tricks, is a good starting point, cuz knowing how to train a dog, will be necessary later on when they begin desensitization efforts.

    only thing sadder than watching a reactive dog,
    is watching a reactive dog who is NOT getting daily training of any type...

    wow, on days i have skipped Buddy's lessons that day,
    he is now much harder to manage, he escalates on days he gets NO lessons.....it's THAT important to a reactive dog.
    or, at least, it is for mine.
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  16. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    //"They may be wrong, but the judge will then take you to where the odor is and let the dog 'find it' so they can be rewarded. :) "//

    cUZ dogs do notice, remember, and repeat things they get rewarded for!!
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  17. GEORGE'SDAD Well-Known Member

    Another fun thing I like to do to work with the dog's noses is to take a piece of a treat, rub it in my hands, place it in a random hand, have the dog sit and use his nose to "find" the treat in my hand. When they get it right, I open my hand and give them the reward!!! They LOVE THIS GAME!!!! Because no matter what, they ALWAYS get the reward once the right guess is made!
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  18. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    George, you can advance this trick,
    to using cups upside down, or bowls.

    You can begin by no scents in either bowl,
    just a treat.
    You can advance to having scents in both bowls,
    and a treat of a different scent. (like, rub bowls with chicken, but put piece of cheese under one bowl)
    and for huge fun,
    rub scents in both bowls, like chicken, and put piece of chicken under one of the bowls,
    but POINT to the bowl you want dog to go for.

    If you dog does not hold a stay,
    you could have your wife hold dog's collars, while you hide treat under one of the bowls,
    then point to the bowl you want dog to go to, (where treat is)
    have your wife release dog,
    and observe if your dog can, or can't, follow your point.

    We had thread on that somewhere in the past, and it was interesting how some dogs COULD understand their human's point,
    and some dogs could not.
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  19. GEORGE'SDAD Well-Known Member

    George will hold a stay for a food reward, at feeding time, he has to lay down and stay when i perpare his food bowl (I'm not even in the same room as him during this) and he waits for me to give him a command (each dog has a different one) Max's cue is "go", Kita's cue is "ok", and georges cue is "los"(German for "go"). It's fun watching all three anxiously waiting for their individual cues! Kita will lay with her ears up, watching your every move, Max willlay calmly with his head on his paws but his eyes are following your every move, but George, oh George, lays there, shaking with excitement, chattering his teeth, and slobbering EVERYWHERE!!!:rolleyes:
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  20. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    If you do try to see if any of your dogs can follow a point,
    some of us wondered on the old thread on this,
    if in multi-dog households,
    if the dogs waiting for their turns, were learning to follow the point by watching their housemate dogs being tested...

    so if you DO check it out with ALL dogs in the same room watching the dog being tested, you might discover that the last dog tested does best!:ROFLMAO:
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