How to begin with Nosework?

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!


Barked: Wed Jan 30, '13 10:56am PST 
I would like to start my GSD on some nosework. She is very very very very hyper, can't focus on anything for any amount of time.

I have called every trainer in my city. There are four. The first two wont work with her because she is too hyper and they cannot calm her or control her. The third stood me up on two separate appointments, not going for a third. The fourth got so frustrated that she yelled at the dog and spanked her. So they're all out.

I have to do this on my own.

I tried putting three boxes in the yard, one with a treat in it. I led her on leash around to the boxes until she found the treat. after showing her what to do, i let her try by herself off leash. she just ran around aimlessly, not caring. I took it inside, same thing.

I tried using three small scent pods. She just knocked them all over. I taped them to the floor, she didn't care about them, barely noticed them.

I am using liver and it reeks and she loves it so i know she wants it but she refuses to work for it.
Dr. Watson

Not a wiener- dawg!
Barked: Wed Jan 30, '13 3:32pm PST 
You might want to try posting this in the Sports and Agility Forum.
Sarah, CWSR,- CWG1, CGC

Million Dollar- Mutt
Barked: Wed Jan 30, '13 5:16pm PST 
So when I started Sarah, we used some really high value treats like raw heart pieces. We had several boxes on the floor, one had some heart in it. Kept the dog on a leash so she couldn't wander off. I let her have one piece and had her watch where I put the rest at first. I did that a bunch of times, then started moving the boxes (the same box still had the food, it just moved places). Then, I stopped letting her watch when I hid the food. After she got really good at that (we did this once a week for a few months), I switched to putting the treats on different things like chairs, on the wall, etc. Only after she was good at that did I add the scents.

Keeping her on leash will help keep her focused. It also seems to help if you put them that is in a room with minimal distractions- no other dogs, no toys, etc.


Lenny -The- Wrecking Ball
Barked: Wed Jan 30, '13 10:54pm PST 
I agree with Sarah, when beginning Nosework you're helping develop the drive or to help further strengthen a dog's natural desire to seek out things with their nose. Using high value treats or at least moist treats that are smellier than your average dog kibble/treat will be easier to find, and for a dog that's hyper and easily distracted than a small room with few distractions is a great place to start. I also had Lenny on leash, and just tucked him away in a bedroom or bathroom when I had to rearrange the boxes each time (you use the same box every time so as not to contaminate any of the clean boxes) and then once I moved them around I went and brought him out to search. Which also mimicked the way things worked in class since after each search the dogs were put back in the crates until it was their turn again.

I'd use more than three boxes, maybe 5 (you don't want to use too many, but too few also takes away some of the challenge). When she finds the food, praise her to high heaven and give her more reward (feed her in the box). When she's easily finding the box with the food, start using boxes with lids (but that she can still smell the food easily through... so plastic lids with small holes poked in them or loosely closed cardboard boxes work well too). This way she has to stay by the box with the food in it and wait for you to come open the box so she can get the reward (and don't forget to give her additional rewards to those that are in the box/container) Once she seems to have the idea start changing up the hides. Put them in corners, up on chairs or low on the ground to make her THINK about how to follow the scent to where it's going. Again, don't make it too hard too quickly. You always want her to be successful.

After about 6 weeks (maybe longer) she should be showing signs that she gets the idea of the game and should be ready to introduce the odor (birch oil is usually the starter scent). Then you're gonna spend a lot of time just pairing food and odor to make the connection. Always reward the dog heavily at the source of odor (feeding them right beside or above the odor is best). After another at least 12 weeks with food and odor paired if she's finding them reliably, then you can go and start just using odor alone. But you don't want to make that jump too soon.

With Lenny I found some physical exercise before hand also helped, and we'd play the game for a little bit then put it away and take a break and then bring it out and play again. Always change up the number of times you play and how many boxes you use. Keep it interesting, and keep it at a level where she can succeed. Especially in the beginning keep the hides easy to build her confidence and desire to play the game. No one wants to play a game that's too hard or that they can't "win".

I hope that kinda helps, definitely keep us updated on how she's doing and if it helps with her focus in the house and with her training in general. smile

Edited by author Wed Jan 30, '13 10:56pm PST

Sarah, CWSR,- CWG1, CGC

Million Dollar- Mutt
Barked: Thu Jan 31, '13 3:57pm PST 
Lenny you did a better job explaining everything than I did!! smile

I know people talk about how Nosework tires out their dog, but it never really made Sarah tired. Maybe we didn't do it long enough, or maybe it's because she's a jack russell/beagle mix?? Who knows. She is more tired after we do Rally!
Augusta,- CGC, RN

Such a Good Dog!
Barked: Thu Jan 31, '13 5:12pm PST 
I'm shocked that a so-called trainer would be frustrated by a hyper shepherd enough to yell and spank a dog . . .eek Yikes! For crying out loud, dealing with "hyper", unfocused behavior should be the bread and butter of any trainer worth their salt. You are right to run from that one!

You can also try toys instead of food if she's toy motivated. We had a sheriff's GSD do a demo with his narcotics dog and he was ball crazy, that was his reward.

As far as other resources for getting more focus from your dog, check out Leslie McDevitt's book "Control Unleashed".

Lenny -The- Wrecking Ball
Barked: Thu Jan 31, '13 7:06pm PST 
Sarah, glad it wasn't only my dog it didn't tucker out that much. I mean it would tire Lenny out but we'd have to go at it for longer than most people said they had to. I think he had to be a real hunting dog in a past life or his momma or daddy was because his drive and stamina to play this game and to search is unbelievable. Even after an hour long class he'd be happy to do more at home before finally settling down for bed. And if I don't make the hides hard enough then it really doesn't tire him out at all lol I was getting so clever in hiding those darn Qtips cause he was making it look too easy! Of course you never want to set them up for failure, but I had to really, really challenge him if I ever wanted him to be tired. I'm sure Rally is the same way; if the routines are too short or aren't complex enough I'm sure the dogs don't find them as draining.

And Gus is right, in our Nosework classes there were two dogs who got the ball as their reward and they were happy to work just for that (of course food was still used paired with the odor and such). And I just finished that book not too long ago, and really really loved so many of the concepts in that book. Really hoping a couple of the games will help Lenny focus a little more outside where he can be soooo distracted.