Bailie and I are in the middle of our nose work three class which is exteriors and vehicles. Nose work involves four search areas, interiors, containers, exteriors, and vehicles. Switching from interior to exterior searches is like entering a new world, and a much more difficult, yet exciting world. The first two weeks we did some real easy searches outside the place we did interior nose work. We needed to learn to search outside, and to ignore all the outdoor distractions. Last week we went to the Stone Overlook at the Big Rivers Regional Trail to have class. This added a ton of variables including planes overhead, cars, tons of bicyclists, walkers, and dogs we did not know.
Aside from the distractions, wind is the biggest variable in exterior searches. You have upwind, downwind, crosswinds, and then there is the way wind travels over and/or through obstacles. We did well at our class that night, so we started searching in our yard. Mom put out hides in the three different wind directions. We started with paired searches (meaning a treat is on top of the odor tin) for our first run and then moved on to just the tins with odor.
Not only does Mom have to read us dogs, she has to figure out how the wind is affecting where the odor travels. Just Mom’s position can cause the wind with the odor to change direction, walls, or trees can cause changes, or the ground depending on if it is dry, wet, hot, or damp.
The wind can also trick us so we are headed the wrong way, but then we catch the correct odor and we will make a head flick or a sudden u-turn. Mom needs to understand the air conditions to know why we are going the wrong way and then to catch us turning to go in the correct direction. It sounds complicated and it is. Mom has to work with Bailie and I individually so we learn to understand what is going on with each other.
Mom made a video of Bailie doing a quick three hide search with a crosswind, bushes/trees, and cold rocks. She chose Bailie, because of the four videos we took, hers was the best to show the most aspects of an exterior search. Above is a quick diagram of the search area in the video. We always have a starting line which we mark with two flags. We have to start between the flags. See how Bailie finds the first hide immediately, they she heads towards the second hide but suddenly goes the wrong way. Just as quickly she catches the correct odor again and turns to find the second hide. On the third hide you can clearly see how she uses her nose, not her eyes to find the hide. Humans think we see it and “cheat”, but the truth is, we may see it but we really follow our nose. Every time we find a hide we also get a treat to reinforce our behavior. Our start word is “Such” which is pronounced “Zuke” (German for search). Along the way if we need encouragement Mom uses “Find it”. The point of these searches is not to trick us or make it real hard. We are just learning to find exterior hides, ignore the distractions, and understand the environmental factors outdoors.
Nose work is a great sport for dogs of any breed, mix, or age. I do suggest you take a class in your area for proper instruction to get you started. I am not an instructor, and am only giving a quick overview of what it is all about.