K9 Nose Work as a class concept and sport was created to provide an opportunity for the pet dog to have an outlet for their natural hunting and scenting abilities. k9 Nose Work classes were developed by three professional detection dog trainers. Recognizing the potential benefits for the pet dog population, classes were developed, and offered to the public in 2006. The demand for classes grew exponentially, and demand for workshops and classes spread rapidly across the US.
As a competitive sport, there are four elements that a dog handler team will encounter; a blind hide in a number of containers, an indoor search for the target odor amongst many distractions, an outdoor search, and finding target odor on a vehicle. The events are timed.
In the beginning stages of Nose Work, a dog is learns to find food, or a favorite toy in one of several cardboard boxes. Very quickly the food/toy is hidden somewhere in the search area, close to the boxes. The search expands from there, with dogs learning to do simple searches in an outdoor area, box drills, and easy vehicle hides. Several weeks are spent building the dog’s drive to hunt. It is a very enjoyable activity for the dog and handler both. Handlers are coached in learning to “read” their dogs, looking for signs that the dog is in “odor” and closing in on the food/toy reward.
The second level of Nose Work is introduced when the dog has a strong desire to hunt, and will stay on task without easily getting distracted. The first target odor a dog is trained on is sweet birch, a non-toxic essential oil. The dog is conditioned to hunt for the scent of the birch in more challenging locations. Our intermediate and advanced classes are conducted in parks, business parks, friends garages..anywhere a hide can be set and worked safely. Vehicle drills and elevated hides are also expanded upon and the other target scents introduced.
At a Nose Work trial, a dog will work to find birch scent at level one. Later the dog is introduced to anise, then clove at levels two and three. The level of difficulty increases for each title level. Prior to trialing, a dog is required to pass an Odor Recognition Test, which is a box drill with a box scented with odor for that level. The dog must identify the correct box in a group of twelve to twenty boxes. The handler must learn to ”read” their dog, knowing when the dog is getting close to the hidden odor. That is one of the things that is very different in this sport. It is about letting the dog take the lead on a hunt, with the handler supplying strategy, and support where needed.
Another thing that makes Nose Work unique is that ANY dog can do this. It is an excellent activity for senior dogs, high drive working dogs, and adolescents. It provides stress relief and enrichment for dogs in shelter situations. It is a confidence builder for the shy and reactive dog. Another great thing about this sport is no expensive equiptment is needed, just a few cardboard boxes and some essential oils. It is a very user friendly sport, and capitalizes on a dog’s natural instinct. In one word FUN!