Scent Work 3-1 Intro To Generalization

Generalization is an important step in helping your dog learn that they can perform a known skill in a new environment. Working in new locations can be distracting and can cause lack of focus.

It’s a process that takes what they already know well in a familiar place to performing in a new place without increasing difficulty or challenges. You may even want to ask for a bit less of what they can perform well in the familiar location. The only challenge is the new location.

By generalizing, we teach the dog what is relevant or not in an environment so that they can eventually perform the task in all places. It’s not required to train in ALL possible places, but the more you generalize the more they will be unphased in a new location.

In nosework we want to generalize new locations and also new container types. Below is some fun homework to try before moving on to the other Week 3 Homework.


Take what you have ALREADY learned and practiced during the first 2 weeks and take it to a new location. We will also be introducing some new “containers” to generalize the type of containers a dog can search.

Game #1: Can you do it …

… in another room in your house, in a training building, or outside. (Make sure they are low-distracting areas).

1.  Take your “It’s your choice” games (these tend to become your warmup before starting a NW exercise) and play them in new locations.

2.  Play “I’m the only one” and “Find it!” in new locations. (Intro to Hunting games 1 & 2)

3.  Play “More Choices” and “The Shell Game” in new locations. (Intro to Hunting games 3 & 4)

Know your dog! If going outside is going to blow their mind, start small and use a new room in your house, the garage, an enclosed patio/deck or a familiar but ‘new to NW’ interior location (training building). When working outside, avoid grass or areas that could be distracting with dog markings/smells. Also make sure to have them on leash if the area is not enclosed.

Game #2: Can you do it with ….

… a cardboard box, a shoe, or a sock?? This is generalizing where the odor can be and showing the dog early on that there are no visual cues/objects or associations for where odor can be!

1.  Use a small cardboard box that is open or very vented on the top. Hold the box in one hand and your treats in the other. Play the other games from weeks 1 & 2 using cardboard boxes you have around the house. Making sure to always label the HOT ones that will ALWAYS be used as hot boxes.

Here’s a video showing a session of “It’s your choice” and “I’m the only one” with a small box.

Use other vented “containers” and mix and match them in mini search setups.

Here is a video of Asha searching socks. When introducing a new “container” type, play IYC (It’s Your Choice) to warm them up so they know odor can be in that particular kind of container.

Notice in this search I ignore Asha’s antics of biting and carrying the socks. As long as she is moving (hunting) I stay back. I wouldn’t encourage this behavior but since she doesn’t do it with other containers, I’m not concerned and the goal of this exercise is to teach her that odor can even be in socks!

And here’s one with PVC elbows.

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