Nosework is a sport where dogs search for essential oil scent similar to drug or bomb detection dogs. Many of the training methods used in this class come from real life detection training. The most amazing thing about this sport is how confident dogs become after learning and doing nosework! It may be due to their natural ability to smell which is intrinsicially motivating. It’s a sport for ALL dogs and super ideal for dogs needing more confidence, injured dogs, senior dogs, young dogs with energy that need a job, etc.
There are a few different Nosework organizations and more developing or moving into new areas. In the US, the primary organizations are NACSW, AKC and UKC. In Canada, the primary organization is SDDA. Also popping up are smaller, more specialized organizations. These organizations are developing in order to meet the demand for additional trialing opportunities.
Before you can enter a trial, you must attend an ORT (Odor Recognition Test) in NACSW or a Pre-Trial Test in UKC to certify that your dog can search and indicate the corresponding titling odor. (AKC does not require or offer a test).
Birch is used for the first level titling class – NW1. You must pass your Birch ORT before trialing. **Birch is also the starter oil for AKC, UKC, PSD, C-Wags, K9 ABC Games, and K9SD.
Anise and Birch are used for NW2. You must pass your Anise ORT and have your NW1 title before trialing in NW2.
Clove, Anise and Birch are used for NW3. You must pass your Clove ORT and have your NW2 title before trialing in NW3
We call these scents or odors the “source” that they are learning to search. In NACSW, each titling class involves 4 elements – containers, interior, exterior and vehicles searches. There are also Element trials where you can title in one element, for example, in Containers. In AKC, the element vehicles, has been removed and replaced with buried.
Always read and famliliarize yourself with the rules of the organization you will be trialing.
The method we will be using to find odor will be through the use of shaping (Operant Conditioning) and back chaining. The dog “finds” the odor by accident using a game called “It’s your choice”. The dog is rewarded at source and then continues to offer that behavior for reinforcement. We will use back chaining where we start with indicating/staying at source first before we do any searching/hunting for scent.
The traditional method teaches the dog to hunt for food first (for an extended period of time) and then the scent is paired with food, and then the food is removed. The fundamental issue with this method is that eventually food is used as a DISTRACTION and causes unnecessary confusion for the dog later on.
We are not interested in teaching the dog to search for food. We want the dog to understand the value of odor, and to stay at source regardless of distractions (food, etc). The dog learns quickly that reinforcement happens when staying at source, which builds drive to search/hunt for odor!
The one advantage of the traditional “search for food” method is that the handler requires little or no training skill for several months. This method, on the other hand, uses your previously learned shaping skills.