Scent Work 6-2 Mock ORT

This lecture is about setting up a Mock ORT where you have someone set a blind hide for you. You have 3 minutes to search. Based on where you are at in your training, you can either do this with your ORT boxes (vented or closed) or with your vented containers.


  1. With up to 12 boxes, set up your boxes 3-4 feet apart. (Ideally with 3-4 feet away from any barriers/walls – you want the dog to be able to get to all sides of the boxes).
  2. Place some pylons 10′ or so from the the boxes to designate your start line.
  3. Have someone place the hotbox in the line of boxes so that it is BLIND to you. But make sure it is marked (lightly in pencil on the side or on the bottom) so you can check before rewarding. (Humans can make mistakes on where they thought they put the hot box :)). You can still have it vented if you are not quite at a closed box yet.
  4. If possible, have 1 or 2 people standing at the edge of the search area to practice with people nearby. At your test you will have the judge, timer, photographer/videoagrapher and 1 or 2 other people in the room.
  5. Ask your helper to stay with you when you send your dog.
  6. Arrange how your helper will confirm to you that the dog is correct. Make sure they don’t tell you BEFORE you call it. We don’t want any cues from the helper! Then call “Alert” and have your helper confirm yes/no.  After you hear a “Yes”, go in and reward!
  7. Warmup with IYC before your search (You can’t do that at a trial since you can’t have odor with you, but I like to in training). At a test they will have warmup boxes, 1 hot clearly marked and 2 or 3 cold white ORT boxes set out either on your way to the start station or out in the parking lot to use whenever you want.
  8. Practice your start line routine – taking up to 10s at the start to get focused, etc.  LET YOUR DOG LEAD OUT from you at the start. You want to hang back so that you are not blocking any scent path to your dog’s nose.
  9. It’s required that you say “Alert” at a real ORT when you think your dog has indicated source.  Other organizations have you raise your hand. Start practice communicating your alert to the “judge”. You can’t (or shouldn’t) reward your dog until the judge acknowledges you have found the hide. The judge will acknowledge with a “yes” or “no”. If it’s a “no”, they will show you were the hot box is so you can reward your dog. Although not how we train to show a dog where the box is, it can be a good opportunity to reward your dog in that environment. Usually by walking up to it the dog will notice odor and you can mark and reward.
  10. Blind hides should make up a very small percentage of your sessions. It’s better to know where your hide is and “act” like you don’t for training. But occasionally you want to put in a blind hide.
  11. If you will do multiple searches in a row in the same area, don’t place a cold box where the hot box was. This may confuse some dogs who pick up the lingering odor from that same spot and false alert. Some dogs work through it well and advanaced dogs usually don’t have a problem with it once they learn the difference between actual odor (highst gradient) and lingering odor. It’s better to keep your training as clear and pure at this stage for success and confidence building.

Here’s Charlotte and Sage working on vented boxes. We start with just a few. Notice the quick reaction time of Charlotte’s to move the leash around her without impeding Sage’s search.

The next video of Asha and me rehearsing an 8 box Mock ORT. At this point we had worked through vented boxes and she was ready for closed boxes.

Notice the leash handling not because it’s great but I want you to notice how I try to stay behind Asha, I don’t want to block the scent. When she turns a couple of times and I’m not fast enough to get behind her, I do my best to stay to the side. However, it would be better if I had stayed behind her the whole time. She gets stuck a couple of times; once for a bunny poop distraction (I’m sure to her it was a bonus treat) and the second time on a false alert. I do give her the search cue again in both of these instances because I want to remind her what she is supposed to be doing, a little nudge. These are early Mock trials so after several more rounds, I’m sure she wouldn’t need the nudge and hopefully, I would get better with leash handling. Also, sorry one of the boxes in the low right corner was cut off.


In this next video, Jamee and Kingston try a 10 box mock trial with closed lids. Notice Jamee’s quiet posture and how she keeps the leash off Kingston’s back at the same time she stays behind him so she doesn’t block odor.


And finally another of Sage and Charlotte working 10 boxes. This was a bit harder of a puzzle since the hide was the front corner box which could easily be missed by a dog who comes in fast like Sage. She has good stamina and works each box until she comes back to the corner. There is only one small snag, Sage steps on one of the boxes, this is most likely a front end awareness issue which can be addressed by doing body awareness exercises. It’s questionable if the judge would give her a fault for this or not.


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