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Last weekend I attended an AKC seminar on ScentWork for judges.

They discussed all the influences on scent - the air flow, electronics, plants etc. that affect how the scent flows. The judges have to take this into account when placing the hide. You hope that the judge is very knowledgeable and uses apps when needed to determine how the air is moving in and around buildings for exterior hides. There are apps to see air flow. For example, on a windy day, most people would assume the protected side of the building would be the best place for hides - it certainly would be the most comfortable. But that's the worst place because wind swirls around in protected areas and send the scent all over the place - dogs wouldn't be able to work back to the hide.

They emphasized that the goal was to search realistic spaces, and not to bring in a lot of random objects into a space for a search. We had exterior searches around our industrial park training facility - basically grass and gravel. I'm so used to exterior searches with picnic tables, outdoor chairs and so are the dogs. So I'm now training my dog to search grass and gravel. All the advanced dogs at the seminar missed searching in the middle of a grassy section - missing the hide - so again I'm training for my dog to cover the whole area, not just the perimeter. The demo dogs first checked the cones that were the perimeter markers. I realized that as humans we have certain biases about where we want our dog to search which could cause the dog to miss something. I was surprised to find that our dogs also have similar biases - they are used to checking certain tables and chairs and will often go check them our first even though they are smelling the scent because those objects usually pay.

There was a discussion when to call an alert a Q versus NQ. It's important that your dog get their nose as close to the source as possible in hides that were accessible. The judge can ask you to point, without touching, to the hide and if you aren't within about 6" you will be disqualified. There was a discussion about how scent moves and how it will move through the day of a long run of dogs. An example was a hide inside a drawer. The acceptable area early in the trial would be the opening around the drawer, but after awhile the scent might travel up and escape out the opening around the drawer above so a judge needs to plan to accept a dog alerting to both drawers. I have trained Babykins to stand up on her hind legs to find higher scents - if she just stands on the floor and points her head up - we could NQ even though she had clearly found the hide. In the most advanced levels where hides can be clearly about a dog standing on their hind legs - then it's acceptable that they are pointing to the high hide..... but not acceptable if they can get up to it.

I thought I would post this for any one else participating in or thinking of doing AKC ScentWork
 

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Thanks for posting. That sounds like a useful seminar. Is there a way of searching for something like that in my area?

Exteriors seem most challenging to me because of the grass and gravel, as my boy likes to mark. The only AKC trial we’ve run they were using objects outside for hides (in a parking lot), however, in UKC we’ve had gravel hides and also downspouts and exteriors of buildings.

Just for fun, here’s an Elite NACSW search are where I volunteered (blurry as it came from a video). We’re not close to being qualified for Elite, but I look forward to it.
 

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