Searching Anywhere and Everywhere… The Key to Nosework Trial Preparation

The ability to search anywhere and everywhere begins with ROUTINE and VARIETY. The sheer range of areas that we get to search is part of what makes this the coolest sport in town.

In trialing, I've searched fairgrounds, stadiums, and even Victory Lane at the Chicagoland Speedway!

Every time we step to the line, it's something new, something different, and an entirely new and unique experience. That newness isn't just for us, but also for our dog. So how in the world do we prepare our dogs to search anything and everything?

The answer is ROUTINE and VARIETY.

Creating a Nosework Routine 

Routine is easier to establish than you might think. It's about being predictable

EVERY thing that I do when preparing for a search is based on being predictable. When I trial, my dogs know immediately why we are there, from the moment I drive onto to the site. Setting my van up by putting the aluminet over it to block the heat is one of their first clues. Taking one of them out and harnessing up is another clue. Sitting in a chair at the staging area tells them that a search is coming. Organizing the line in my hands tells the dog to start to think about the search area. Holding the collar in my left hand and line in my right focuses my dog ahead. At the point that I release my dog into the search area, there has been an incredible amount of build-up that has not only told my dog WHY we are there, but that also gives my dog time to get in the right state of mind (me too!). The result is a focused dog and a focused search!

Do you want to know what else predictability in routine builds? CONFIDENCE and COMFORT! If you have a sensitive dog, half of your challenges can be mitigated by just giving your dog the comfort of preparation. Routine isn't boring…. It's just preparation and information.

You can establish routine by doing similar things every time you train. By ritualizing your tasks, you automatically give your dog comfort. Keep in mind that routine isn't just the start line! It's everything… developing your rituals for the whole experience will give your dog that necessary mental preparation.

Training for (and with) Variety 

If you want your dog to search a variety of new locations at a trial, you need to provide a variety of experiences when in training. Variety is what trains the dog. New places and new setups give the dog the breadth of experience that they need to be able to encounter and conquer something new.

Variety isn't restricted to places…. Think about variety in terms of:

  • Places
  • Footing
  • Type of Containers
  • Types of Vehicles
  • Hide Locations
  • Weather Conditions

Providing your dog with variety of experiences will go a long way towards trial preparation!

What if you train mostly at home?

It's ok to train at least a part of the time at home (although it's incredibly important to also train in new places). The risk you run is that the dog will get bored of the location or your typical hide locations. You can change this up by changing the topography of your search area frequently. You can use folding chairs, folding tables, x-pens, collapsible milk crates, and anything else that you can think of in or to give your dog variety. This will keep interest high and maximize the dog's learning absorption. That way your dog will maintain motivation which can wan with boredom. Home training should however, never be a true replacement for training in new locations.

Ultimately, your success in trial preparation will come down to VARIETY and ROUTINE. Practice both and you will be well on your way!

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