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Well done! It has been great to read your competition journey. It is very possible that I love Nosework more than agility- and that is saying something. I feel like it connects me with this secret world dogs have, the scented world.
 

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Huge congratulations, this is fabulous. How wonderful that you were only one of seven to qualify. That says a lot about your teamwork. I can’t believe you’re so close to NWS 3 elite.

My dog has zero interest in tennis balls, zip, nada, nope. Except when it’s a distraction hidden in a box in a trial. She didn’t alert but she sure wasted a lot of time sniffing. Darn distractions.
 
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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
94Magna_Tom, I hope someone will weigh in with good YouTube or other videos of nosework instruction. It's super easy, with low equipment requirements. We started with setting out an array of open boxes with treats in just one of them, praising the dog when they located the correct box. The next step is to 'pair' treats with a target odor (birch, anise or clove for NACSW). Then phase out the treats and train with just odor.

Some training methods differ, introducing target odors immediately. My instructor is a judge in several canine nosework venues so I trusted her methods. I believe they are endorsed by NACSW, the organization that developed the sport.

I took formal lessons for about a year and now practice on my own or with a training friend. It's helpful to film practice searches . . . I'm using an iPhone mounted on my old SLR tripod with a bluetooth remote. It's easier to see the dogs 'change of behavior' in response to catching a scent. It's also easy to see the difference between the dog taking a second sniff of something in the environment and giving an actual alert on target odor.

This 5-minute trailer video shows the exact method that we learned from. My club hosted a couple of seminars teaching the open box search. We still don't host NW events (that may change soon), but the seminars generated enough interest that many club members are taking lessons elsewhere and attending nosework trials.

 

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Congratulations! This sounds like a good time for all! How could I begin training for NW at home/yard?
Fenzi Dog Sports Academy is an online training school that has wonderful nosework instructors. One of them even competes with a 13(?) year old SPoo. She's going to be teaching a "before odor" class in the June session, which is good for younger puppies. Or you could jump right into the regular beginner class, which starts dogs on odor from the start. This is the website. Fenzi Dog Sports Academy - Home
 
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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
Last weekend we participated in two NACSW element trials (4 searches in only one element: containers, interiors, exteriors or vehicles). The first trial was our nemesis, level 2 containers. These are more difficult IMO than level 3 searches because they WILL contain distractors, while level 3 containers rarely does because the difficulty is in not knowing how many hides there are. We were doing great going into the 4th search, then my dog hit on a distractor in a 3-hide search (finding all of the hides as well). Bummer. That's considered a 'leg,' and if we achieve another leg it will lead to a title.

The second day was level 1 interiors. I LOVE interiors. We play sniffers in my home often with both dogs in the evening, and it is pure joy for them. We took 1st place in this trial with a total search time of 53.64 seconds for four separate interior searches. Two of the searches had the option of being off leash, and I did this. I finally have enough confidence in my dog's nose. He went directly to the hides in 2 of the searches.

Element trials are fun because they take place in half a day, rather than the full day required for other NACSW trials. The two other standard poodles there took 18th and 20th place out of 35 teams.
 

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Mia, Christmas in June 2010
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1st place! Congratulations. Mia always had the most difficulty with Level 2 containers as well. Especially when she was tired, the distractors did their job.
 

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Congratulations, Scooterscout!

Perhaps you can explain in more detail the difference between a NW1 (or 2, 3) trial and a L1 element trial, and why a club would choose to do one or the other?
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 · (Edited)
Great question! This was confusing to me as well, and I spent precious lesson time asking questions. There are multiple venues for nosework, the same way that AKC, UKC and other organizations sponsor obedience and rally trials. NACSW is the original, the organization that developed the sport, and I'll explain their system.

There are 4 elements: interior, exterior, vehicle, and container. The requirements for an element search--including the height that an odor can be placed, and the number of vehicles to be searched--become more difficult as a team progresses from level 1 to level 2, level 3, elite division, and summit league (I don't compete in the last 2 and am not familiar with their rules). There is a time limit for each search which is determined by the certifying official and given to competitors ahead of the search. A 30 second warning of time expiring is usually given by the timekeeper. Treats are allowed (I've included a photo from a level 1 container element trial of my dog alerting and receiving treats at the box with the odor; also a vehicle search).

Level 1 trials use the birch odor and have one search for each of the elements. Containers are cardboard boxes only. The handler must call when the odor is found. Dogs must pass an odor recognition test for all 3 odors before entering a Level 1 trial.

Level 2 trials use both birch and anise. There will be 5 searches, so an 'extra' search for one of the elements. There will be 1 or 2 hides in each search and that information will be provided to competitors. At least one distractor is used in the container search. The handler must call each found odor and when their dog is finished searching.

Level 3 trials use birch, anise and clove. There will be 6 searches. There will be from 0 to 3 hides in each search area. There may be multiple distractors in containers. The handler must call each found odor and when their dog is finished searching. It's a little like Masters level in barn hunt, where you don't know how many rats there are and must call when your dog is finished searching.

The NW3 Elite title requires 3 successful passes in level 3.

Element trials have 4 searches of just one element, and they're held at level 1, 2 and 3 levels, following the rules above. Level 1 container trials will have only cardboard boxes to search. Level 2 will have other containers, sometimes a mix of containers in one search, and may have distractors (food, tennis balls, etc.). The club that hosted last weekend's element trials said that they like the shorter length of time required, each is a half day long. They are fun for competitors and easier to keep the humans and dogs energy up. There were 4 trials over two days last weekend.

AKC, UKC and C-WAGS provide opportunities to compete in nosework without committing as much time for trialing, or for completing all 4 elements in order to title. There are some differences in the odors used between different venues. Pre-COVID, they allowed crating in the building whereas NACSW requires crating in cars (this stems from the development of the sport as an activity for shelter dogs, to minimize interactions).
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Wow! 1st place out of 35 competitors! That's impressive! Congratulations!
Do you think I could use anise extract (comes in a bottle like vanilla does) and whole cloves to try this at home? Not sure what I could use for Birch (wintergreen oil?) Is the scent always hidden in a container, or can you do something like stuff it in a seat cushion crack or under a seat?
 

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We took 1st place in this trial with a total search time of 53.64 seconds for four separate interior searches.
. Wow, that is extremely impressive. Huge, huge, huge congratulations


Do you think I could use anise extract (comes in a bottle like vanilla does) and whole cloves to try this at home? Not sure what I could use for Birch (wintergreen oil?) Is the scent always hidden in a container, or can you do something like stuff it in a seat cushion crack or under a seat?
Tom you have to buy very specific essential oils and how they are applied to cotton Qtips vary according to the organization. I compete in cWags and AKC. AKC is usually an all day affair too because most people compete in all 4 elements (containers, buried, interior and exterior [which contains vehicles]) as well as handler discrimination if offered. Both search birch, anise, clove and cypress.

Tom, I like to purchase my supplies from Oils - Paws 4 Fun. They sell the correct oils. Before using the oils you need to know how to prepare the Qtips and have them in suitable scent vessels. It helps to take a class and they usually start puppies at 4 months. I know you’re playing with hiding treats for Elroy and that’s perfect for preparing him to hunt for hides.
 

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Tom, I like to purchase my supplies from Oils - Paws 4 Fun. They sell the correct oils. Before using the oils you need to know how to prepare the Qtips and have them in suitable scent vessels. It helps to take a class and they usually start puppies at 4 months. I know you’re playing with hiding treats for Elroy and that’s perfect for preparing him to hunt for hides.
Thanks for the info and link. I will continue with treats for now, but searching for non-treat scents seem cool and can be useful.
 

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@scooterscout99 Thank you so much for such a detailed account of NACSW! It’s all beginning to make sense. I was confused when I went to sign up for another trial and saw options of NW1 and L1. It looks like NW1 is comprehensive, and more tiring. I’ll be signing up for whatever is available (there’s not much!), and then in my area there is a lottery system to actually get in.

My trainer does NACSW exclusively, but I am also interested in AKC. For AKC I’m trying to decide if I have the skills for their entry level competition if I’m ready for NACSW NW1 competition. Thoughts? I guess it boils down to buried hides. I haven’t trained for those, but have a plan for training at home just need some supplies. I could also just not sign up for the buried portion of the trial.

Nice photos of your working poodle! He looks awesome while working. I hope to have some of Violet soon.
 

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Thoughts? I guess it boils down to buried hides. I haven’t trained for those, but have a plan for training at home just need some supplies. I could also just not sign up for the buried portion of the trial.
. I would think you are well prepared for AKC novice, except for buried and you don’t have to compete in buried. There’s also Handler Discrimination (searching for your odor, not birch, cypress, clove or anise) which you don’t have to do, and some trials don’t offer because of lack of space/time.

Novice is just buried in sand. It used to be buried in the ground, but that was a problem for winter trials if the ground was to frozen to dig and place a hide. AKC is now using plastic bins with metal baking cooling racks as a cover and they had a list of which bins match which cooling racks. Problem was when I went to buy them most items were no longer available. I believe these in this post are available. It shows them only partially filled with sand. A metal mesh tea ball is the scent vessel. The odor must be buried under 4” of sand .

When I train buried I start with the odor on top of the sand in the tea ball. When the dog is alerting properly, I start to cover it with sand, each round I place it deeper and deeper til we’re 4”. Once dogs are consistently doing well with buried 4”, I start to sprinkle some water on the sand. Buried is often held outside and if it’s damp or we get a little sprinkle of rain, the sand can “smell” different than a completely dry sand indoors. The first time I trialed in AKC buried, they were pretty wet from the off and on rain that morning.


Also vehicles are part of exterior searches. Sometimes you’ll see the side of a vehicle used as one boundary, so you will only search one side. Another tricky thing is a vehicle(s) could be parked in the search area and the odor may be close to a vehicle but not on it vehicle, say 6” away on the ground hidden under gravel with the wind blowing the scent onto the car. Your dog may be drawn to and trained to do a complete vehicle search and may not be used to the concept of the working the odor back to source if it’s only focused on the vehicle, yet in other searches your dog would work back to source. Not all exterior searches have a vehicle. AKC requires the search area contain what is naturally found in that area. We can’t bring in outdoor furniture or kids toys. At my club‘s trial when we hold it at our building, we’re often searching hides hidden in grass, leaf debris or under gravel or stuck to a garbage can because we don’t have much outside.
 

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@Skylar Thank you for the buried hides information. I’m hoping to be set up for training this soon. I’m adding a tea ball to my shopping list.

Also, the information about vehicles being a casual part of an exterior search- I’m so glad you mentioned this!! Not the kind of thing I would have wanted to discover at trial. Violet has done a lot of vehicle searches, but of course it’s always the whole vehicle. I need to train for a vehicle as distractor, I think.
 
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