SW 2 – 4-2 – Assessing The Difficulty Of Novel Locations

Searching novel locations is the key to eventually preparing for a trial, however it’s really easy to overwhelm your dog in a new location. In the beginning you want to be very judicious in your selection of locations. Two of the major considerations in assessing a novel location include air flow and distractions. Just like in teaching our dogs exteriors, we want to look for structure in the environment.

Overall, you need to think about difficulty as:

Difficulty = Dog’s Drive for Odor – Air Flow Challenges – Environmental Distractions – Size of Search Area

If you have a timid dog or a dog that has a lower motivation for odor, you will especially want to make sure that you find an easy scent puzzle in a small area with low distractions. In fact this is a good way to start ALL dogs on novel locations. It’s a balance and we want to increase the difficulty level very slowly.

Let’s take a look at some some novel locations… all of these are difficult for different reasons.

The first search area is outside of a ladies room at the American Legion building. To the left of the photo are trees and brush. This site is also used as a trial location for Barn Hunt so there are a ton of dog smells. Although this search area is small, the distractions are very high!

Ladies Bathroom

The next area is a large area. It’s a pavilion with a of interesting scent puzzles! This would be a great area for a more advanced dog to search. Picnic tables are wonderful places for hides! However, the grills will have enticing food smells and the area is next to a lake… really tough for some dogs!


Because this is a large area, we also have the option to make it easier by simply making it smaller! In the beginning, you might want to just search ONE picnic table. Having the picnic table on concrete reduces the number of distractions.

Pavilion Picnic Table

This picnic table is much more difficult. Although this is a small search area, it’s right next to a very enticing stump and next to a stagnant lake.

lake picnic table

This search area, a playground is less distracting than some of the other search areas. If you were careful with the air flow, this could be an interesting place for a novice dog to search. For the more timid dog, narrow the search area to a smaller area.


Find five different search areas and describe the search their level of difficulty. You may choose to run your dog or not depending on the difficulty. We just want to start thinking about areas through our Nosework eyes.

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