Today I’m going to be talking about container searches and how you can change things up to make them more difficult at any level of nose work. Boxes are the most common container searches. Dogs learn nose work using boxes, ORT (odor recognition tests) are done with boxes, and at Level 1 Nose work trials, the containers used are typically boxes. The boxes used in container searches can really be of any size and shape and can be placed anywhere, not only on the floor.
The nose work class Bailie and I just finished worked on difficult container searches. We are in a class with dogs at all title levels, so some of our searches would be for Level 2 or 3 in nose work trials, but it is good for us to start adding in challenges earlier rather than later. I have three searches for this post, the basic ORT 12 boxes on the floor with one hide, multiple boxes on a stairway with one hide, and large boxes, one has no hide, one has one hide, and one box has two hides. In class, we also had hanging boxes which are tricky as the boxes move and the odor blows around a bit more as the boxes move. We also worked on distractors such as food, but I will save that for another post.
We are working on getting in the habit of going up and down each row and sniffing every box, even after we find the hide. The reason for this is that after Level 1, there may be multiple hides and we need to make sure we search everything. If we always stop after finding one, we would need to relearn to keep searching when we get to the next level.
Next up is the stairway search. You may think, what is the big deal. Well, what are we supposed to search? Should we be searching the stairs, the boxes, are we just going upstairs to do something. We have to figure out it is a box container search on the stairway. One other thing to point out, is we often smell the hide yet keep searching other boxes and come back to where we originally smelled the odor. This is a normal behavior. In the video, you will see me sniff the box with the hide, continue to another box and then come back.
The big box with two hides presents some challenges. First off, I need to make sure I always search the entire box when I do box searches, and secondly, the odor travels as it ages on the box meaning the odor on one side may converge with the odor on the other side making the source a bit harder to detect.
Once I have it, I signal my alert again. I probably sounds real simple, but if you actually watch dogs working these situations you can see the amount of work we put into it making is a real challenge mentally.
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