Find it!

February 21, 2017

This is called “resting on his laurels.”

Nose work for dogs is a team sport.

No, the dogs aren’t a team–you and your dog together are a team. And the biggest lesson for most handlers is to “trust your dog.”  A dog that knows how to “find it!” is going to find it and tell you. Eventually. But we humans like to second guess our dogs.

Riley’s command is “find it!” and he does: he passed his first two odor recognition tests, Birch and Anise.  It’s true that his class trained for more than a year on Birch–maybe even two–so he was super-ready…. but our training on Anise was less intense. Still, after some anxious seconds, he passed Anise, too.

In his first test, he was super-quick. But even though I knew he knew how to find Birch, I still didn’t trust his first “Alert!” in the test and made him insist. Just to be certain.

I don’t have any problem with making him “insist” or alert again in a test, because we do have three minutes to “find it.” In the birch test, even with my making him “insist” he took 9 seconds.  But the bigger issue is that his alerts easily become sloppy and that’s my fault because I don’t always require him to give me a sharp alert. Which is why that’s our focus during his twice monthly classes.

Although we share a tight bond of love, our teamwork in the sport isn’t as strong as it needs to be for us to progress in canine scent work and that is on me, not him.

So how does all this work?  We take classes with a canine nose-work instructor: more than three years now, and with the same dogs. The “training pack” as I call it.  Right now we practice in a pet supply store, but we haven’t always. We’ve also trained outside. Let me share some photos of outdoor searches.

When we get to trials, if we ever get there, that’s what happens. To give us an idea of what might happen in a trial, his nose work trainer, Miss Pam, set up some exterior searches for our class.

A very clean garbage area and a short search. Riley’s alert is that he touches it (usually) and looks up at me. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish just looking at me from an alert, which is why this is a team sport. You have to know the difference. Lately, though, his alerts have been loose and so I often make him insist. He’s a lazy dog so he won’t always touch it if he can get away with just looking at me.

Vehicle search outdoors. When he did this last year for the first time, he was pretty quick but on this day, he was distracted. You can see him catch the scent a few times but not move ahead toward the “hide.” At about 2:03 he gets serious and then finds it.

In a trial, you get three minutes. Just to give you an idea, in his first odor recognition test, it took him 9 seconds to find the birch scent. I think it took 30 or more seconds for him to find anise. That test room was a problem because the placement of the door to the outside created odor drift and many dogs didn’t pass. I wasn’t sure why Riley’s search pattern was peculiar on that test until later, when our trainer explained what had happened.

Riley loves his nose work classes and it gives us something fun to do a couple of times a month. Or during the day at home, if i practice with him.  If you have a dog that is reactive, it’s an ideal activity as the dogs work independently and are crated in between. They never have to come in contact with each other.

We’ll continue for the foreseeable future because it’s a fun outing for us all and I couldn’t recommend it more highly to dog owners.

25 comments on “Find it!
  1. That is SO cool!

    My sister and I both trained dogs when we were kids – I trained my Sheltie, Mistie, up to Companion Dog Excellent, and my sister was able to train Mistie’s littermate Boomer, who’d been bought by folks in our neighborhood. He got up to Utility Dog, which is where that track of training starts getting into the scent discrimination, before my sister went to college. He just LOVED his classes. Mistie was a good girl but she wasn’t quite as into it as he was.

    I always wished we had a way to let Mistie try herding – that’s what Shelties are bred for and I think she would’ve loved it. She used to bring our cat, Cindy. in when we wanted the cat in, you would let her out and say “Find the cat” and pretty soon the cat would come running in the door with Mistie running along behind. That wasn’t so much herding as that we’d gotten Mistie as such a little fluffball puppy (I think we brought her home at 8 weeks) that Cindy was able to establish herself as in charge in the house, so when Mistie ran up and starting barking at her outside, she would just head inside. Then there would be treats all around!

    We did take Bella, my boyfriend’s smart little Catahoula, for a sheepherding session with a trainer out in Long Island one summer. Oh my gosh was that fun to watch!

    Of course I did a blog post!

  2. This is really fun, Carol! Riley is ON it! I never realized there were classes like this, how fun! My parents were involved with obedience training years ago, and the dogs had to distinguish scents on dumbbells made of wood, leather and metal, and that after jumping over things! Dogs are amazing!

  3. Sandy KS says:

    I have two dogs. One knows more commands than the other. As my 5.6 lb Chihuahua wired terrier mix doesn’t like to take command very well. My Chug does really well.

  4. Sondra Barker says:

    This is awesome, dogs are such smart animals! I never knew there were classes that taught dogs these types of things, this is really great stuff.

  5. That is amazing !! Dogs can learn so much if they are trained. I have 2 little dogs no training except for my commands.


    Awwww what a cute fur baby!!! I use to have 2 dogs. One was super smart and did everything I ask, the other one, not so much lol

  7. 1) This is so cool! I had no idea they had classes for this sorta thang! When I get my dog for my van travels I am for sure going to look into this as it could come in handy!

    2) the little pup is just too adorable <3

  8. Elizabeth O. says:

    I haven’t had a dog in the longest time and it’s always so nice to see posts like this. The bond is really there as you can see and feel and there’s no better feeling than that! I think Riley’s really smart! It’s awesome that you take him to classes like this.

  9. Kelly Reci says:

    haha the videos are cute! he’s so adorable! i never had a dog before bcos of my fur allergy! but im very interested to own one!

  10. Jennifer says:

    That’s really cool that there are classes like that. I love that Riley is a little lazy, reminds me of a kid just try to do the least amount to get a pass. Too cute!

  11. Love it – and love Riley! I don’t think either of our dogs would ever be able to “find it!”

  12. Stacey says:

    Dogs are so smart. I’ve never owned one but I have a lot of friends I get to spend time with them. They kill me because they have a sense when people don’t really want to bothered by them. I have bad allergies, so I rarely touch them. But I went ti stay with a friend who had a dog that loved me. She would inch her way towards me on the back seat of the couch and if I looked at her she’d back up. I stayed with them for three weeks and by the time I left that dang dog was sitting in my lap and I was petting her. She would growl at her owners if they came near me. So funny.

  13. Catvills says:

    theyre so cute! i own 2 dogs. they are both smart but the other one is lazy and doesnt want to move his ass out of his cage haha

  14. I’d like to bring Sally on a nose work training session to enhance the understanding and develop the skills necessary to fulfill our wants.

  15. Crizzy Kiss says:

    I miss my dog while reading this! It’s really beneficial for both the dogs and owners if they go to training. They can understand us better. 😉

  16. Awesome! Definitely some good tips I can use to train my dog’s senses to be a bit better. Haven’t been training my dog over the last year and now he’s too much of a free spirit lol.

  17. Some dogs enjoy fetching things, while others can do without. We have two dogs, and one of them is more of a “play ball” kind of dog, while the other is a couch potato

  18. I just love how smart dogs are. And pigs, pigs are extremely smart! Animals never cease to amaze me.

  19. Elizabeth says:

    How fascinating! It sure looks like Riley is enjoying himself here! Such a cutie 🙂

  20. This is soooo awesome! MadLove for you and your doggie! amazing post and i love what you’re promoting. such a brilliant owner you are

  21. Hooray for Riley! He’s really amazing at this nose work stuff! Kudos to both of you on your training and successes. I have a 13-year-old Shih Tzu named Isabel who is not trained in anything other than how to get her own way at all times. She looks a lot like Riley — same coloring and very similar face.

  22. G&D Blog says:

    Wow! This is a fun-post about dogs. Our dogs arent that well-trained but sometimes, they follow us when we say “get under the blanket” when its time for us to sleep. Great job Riley! 😀

  23. A Real fun here! I have two dogs who are smart and similar to yours. Thanks for joining the Bloggers Pit Stop

  24. I’d love to see more posts about how your dog’s nose training has gone and how the process looks from beginning to where you are now. My dog can “find it,” but only when “it” is his bone and you don’t hide it too hard. We haven’t tried doing it outside yet either – just inside the house and only on one level. It would be cool to learn how to teach him to use his nose more effectively though!

  25. Love it! Find it and scent games are such a wonderful way for a dog to interact with their human. It’s a great confidence booster too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.