Updated: Sep 2
The K9 Nose Work® training method is the approach used by those instructors who have graduated from the NACSW™ CNWI training program, and are approved canine scent training instructors. The main focus of this approach is to ensure the training is done in such a way that the dog is the focus of the activity. Dogs are given the opportunity to work independently, to develop their own hunting style and progress at their own pace. The use of self-rewarding allows the dog to better understand the activity: finding the hide is what is rewarding, nothing else. With this approach, the dog is truly the lead dancer, and the handler is there to observe and make adjustments to the exercise to ensure the dog can be successful and can progress at a good rate.
How Does Scent Work University Use the K9 Nose Work® Training Method?
At Scent Work University, we utilize the K9 Nose Work® training method for our Foundation Scent Work and Intro to Odor courses. This means dogs initially work to find food, otherwise known as primary, in a variety of search elements (Containers, Interiors, Exteriors and Vehicles). Working this way allows dogs to learn how the odor picture will look in a variety of situations. Also, it gives the handler the opportunity to truly learn how to read their dog, and determine if there are any areas the dog may need extra help with.
For instance, during a practice session focusing on assessing a dog's confidence, you may notice they are concerned working their way to a hide that is within a tight space. Since you are using food alone initially, the dog is less likely to associate any fear they may initially experience to the activity overall, or worst yet, to the target odor you would see in competition. Likewise, they are also less likely to shutdown entirely. But since you noticed their concern and hesitation, you can adjust the environment and set-up to allow them to be successful, and then incrementally increase the level of difficulty from there. The motto is always manipulate the environment, not the dog.
Once the dog has an understanding of what the activity of Scent Work is all about, and they have shown interest, drive and a level of independence in working out the problems you have posed, they are then introduced to hunting for a target odor, such as Birch. This is accomplished by using self-rewarding or pairing, meaning a treat is placed directly with the hide when it is hidden in the search area. Again, this allows the dog to better understand: finding the hide is what is rewarding, nothing else.
What Types of Dogs Benefit from the K9 Nose Work® Training Method?
We have found that using the K9 Nose Work® training method has worked for a large swath of dogs. This includes dogs who are shy, reserved, nervous, lack motivation, drive or enthusiasm, or are reactive, blind or deaf.
Would the K9 Nose Work® Training Method Be a Good Choice for Me?
We think so. We have found this training approach to be the easiest for all handlers to implement, and doesn't require any specialized prior knowledge or motor skills to do properly.