Exterior Considerations

Adapted from NW120: Nosework Elements.  Taught by Stacy Barnett http://fenzidogsportsacademy.com/

Stacy’s Website:  http://scentsabilitiesnw.com/

Exterior areas can be quite complicated and difficult! Wind, air flow, weather, natural and environmental distractions can make easy scent puzzles seem much more difficult.

It’s essential to set up hides and search areas that are commensurate with your dog’s skill level and natural ability to manage distractions. If your dog loves to hunt, searching areas near dried leaves and other places where critters may live might be a really hard location. If your dog is a marker or is still intact, searches near dog potty areas are probably not a good place to start.

When starting exterior searches, conduct your searches in familiar locations. Familiar locations could be your backyard, your front yard, a patio or even your driveway. Assess your dog’s level of distraction in each location.  If the location is too distracting for your dog, move to a less distracting location to practice.

Considerations for your first exterior search

  • Pick small areas outdoors, perhaps only 10’ x 12’ or a similar size.
  • Try not to do your first exterior work in the rain. Eventually you will need to be able to search in the rain but it is best not to introduce searching outdoors in bad weather.
  • Pick an area with low amounts of distractions such as pavement or a wood surface. Some dogs can initially search on grass but for others, grass is too distracting. When first introducing dogs to exterior searches, a back patio or deck may be a great place to start.
  • Certain surfaces are more difficult for finding source than others. Smooth surfaces, poles or fencing and grated surfaces are more difficult because odour cannot pool or collect on them. The best surfaces for placing a hide in the early stages are:
    • Rough surfaces
    • Surfaces with a lot of structure, structure meaning objects and “stuff”. This is one of the reasons why we teach a dog to search a cluttered interior before a clean interior! Odor adheres to surfaces.
  • Another consideration is wind. It’s going to be quite difficult to start teaching your dog to search outdoors in steady wind. If there is a little wind, that’s okay. The important thing is to initially start your dog downwind of the hide (wind is blowing in your face). A good way to determine wind direction is to:
    • Tie a piece if flagging tape (about 2 feet long) onto your bait bag or wrist. Flagging tape is inexpensive and is a great way to quickly see wind direction. Interestingly, flagging tape is legal to take with you into a trial.
    • Leave flagging tape on your bait bag all of the time as it can be help you read the breeze in a trial situation.
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