Containers will become a training staple for your dog. Containers are used to (1) teach the dog to find and select odor, and (2) containers are an element in every Nosework venue.
Eventually our dogs will learn to work boxes, plastic containers, empty (clean) paint cans, luggage, and more during their career. There are different ways to can start a dog on containers… in fact, you can start them on alternatives to containers rather than directly on boxes.
So, at this point, we need to make a choice. Do we start with boxes? Do we start with a box alternative?
The traditional method of teaching nosework involves dog hunting for food in boxes. As mentioned earlier, although this works, it can be problematic. Soon, there will be intentional food distractions in the box, thus changing the rules on the dog. Also, the dog has learned to reward himself by interacting with the box. This is a lead to box smashing.
The original way that FDSA (Fenzi Dog Sports Academy) has taught Nosework is by using Game Boxes. Game Boxes are simply small plastic boxes, one of them containing odor. This works great and because we do not “pair” food with odor, the dog does not typically learn to interact with the box in order to obtain their reward.
What has been noticed over time however is that regardless of the way the dog was started on odor, Nosework dogs have an affinity to boxes. With most dogs this is not an issue. However, with some dogs, undesirable behaviors have manifested resulting in box smashing, burping (the dog stepping on the box to release odor), box digging, “box hockey”, perching, and any number of other potentially destructive behaviors.
Historically, a limited amount of antics have been tolerated with the issuance of faults, however recent rule clarifications in NACSW have highlighted a potential for more faults to be handed out.
So, if you have dog that would benefit from early scent training without the use of a traditional box, it would be a good time to consider your options now.
Below the container options are described. Option 2 and 3 are generally the best but option 1 is the easiest to get and will work well if you have a dog that is shy.
OPTION 1: Game Box
A game box is simple a study plastic box with holes drilled in the top. Half inch holes are pretty good as it can keep food from falling in. You can get these virtually anywhere. You will need approximately six of them. They should be identical.
The types of dogs that will do well with Game Boxes are more biddable dogs with calm temperaments. If you have a very small dog, you might find that the dog may exhibit “perching” behaviors (standing with the front feet on the box), especially if you have done perch work in other sports.
OPTION 2: Metal Switch Boxes
Metal switch boxes can discourage box smashing and box hockey. We recommend the use of a switch box that incorporates a 4×4 swtich box and a mud ring. Links to these options (in Home Depot) are provided below. This option is a little more expensive than Game Boxes but less expensive than pipes (option 3). Also, because it has a small hole, we can easily teach stay at source behavior.
OPTION 3: Scent Pipes
Scent Pipes having been around in the professional detection world for quite some time and are often used to imprint puppies (future working dogs) on narcotics. It’s a bit more pricey than the metal switch boxes but there are several advantages. Because you drill a hole in the front of the tub, the handler is able to feed directly at source while the dog’s nose stays at source, in the tube. This really encourages duration and stay at source behavior.
Also, the pipes look the least like a box out of the three options so you can instill good odor indication behaviors before the dog is ever exposed to a box. The downside is of course (1) cost and (2) you have to be handy enough to be able to drill the hole (which should be about 2″ in diameter). This approach is best for puppies or dogs with very small heads…
The pipes are comprised of a 45 degree PVC elbow pipe fitted with a closet flange with a shower drain inserted inside. The drain is intended to keep intentional distractions away from the dog in later use.
Metal Box and Pipe Considerations
If you’ve decided that you want to use a Box Alternative, keep in mind your dog when selecting either the Pipes or the Metal Box. Although the pipes are wonderful, some dogs may feel trepidation in putting their heads in the pipe. You will want to take that into consideration.
“It’s your choice” with a container
We will play the same Its Your Choice game with containers. With your odor tin in a vented Game Box, hold the container in one hand and your treats in the other.
Once your dog is doing well with this, you can place the container on the floor and continue from there.
If you are using Metal Boxes:
This is done exactly like you would do with a Game Box!
If you are using Scent Pipes:
With Scent Pipes, you still want to make sure that you’ve done It’s Your Choice with a tin prior to doing this step. If you’ve done your homework, your dog will want to investigate the pipe. As soon as he puts his head in, click or mark and feed a high value treat through the hole.
Once your dog is comfortable and starts to seek out the pipe, you can move the pipe’s position.