Hide Placements

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

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

In the world of Nosework, you will hear the terms Accessible hides and Inaccessible hides.  These terms are often misunderstood.  All too often new handlers will confuse “visible” to be “accessible” and “hidden” to be “inaccessible”.

Accessible hides

In the early stages of nosework, all of your hides will be “Accessible”.  This means that your dog will be able to access the highest concentration of odor coming from the hide (from within 1-1.5 inches away).

An accessible, hidden hide could be a straw with a Q-tip inside placed in the seam of a drawer.  The area of highest concentration of odor will be at that seam and will be accessible by the dog.  A well placed hide in a drawer seam would also be hidden from your view.

Here are some pictures of accessible hides.  Notice that these hides are partially hidden!  When you start placing your own hides, make sure that the hide is accessible to your dog.

In a nosework trial, the hides will be placed so that the handler can’t see them and the hides will also not be retrievable by your dog.

This picture is an example of an assessable hide that is hidden from the handler and non-retrievable by your dog.



This next hide is accessible but in the early stages of training, you want to make sure your dog can access all sides of the item on which the hide is placed. Access to all sides of the item allows your dog to work source from all angles as the airflow could affect where the scent cone is located.  If the wind was blowing north in the picture below, the scent cone would form outside of the yard making a search on the inside of the fence much harder for your dog.

Inaccessible hides

“Inaccessible” simply means that the highest concentration of odor is not available to your dog.

  • A hide is place in the drawer.  As the hide is aged, odor concentration will build up inside the drawer.  This is where the concentration is the highest.  Odor will seep through the cracks to the outside of the cabinet.  The concentration of odor will be less at the point of seepage than it will be inside the drawer.  During the search, your dog can only get his nose to the cracks where odor is seeping and therefore cannot access the point at which the odor is most highly concentrated.
  • A hide placed 4 or 6 feet high, will be inaccessible for most dogs and more so for small dogs!

Your dog may alert differently depending on the type of “inaccessible” hide:

  • If the hide is placed in a locker or cabinet, your dog may alert just like an accessible. She’ll source it to the closest she can get and keep her nose there.
  • If the hide is elevated above her head, she may only bracket (move her head back and forth between the edges of the scent cone) and not be able to get at source.

In this picture, the hide is accessible only if a dog can stretch up with paws on the wall.  It would be inaccessible to a small dog.  In the beginning, your dog should not have to put his paws up on anything to get to source.

This hide would be inaccessible to a small dog:

Sometimes the definition can be gray:

  • A box could be considered a lesser degree of an “inaccessible” hide. Your dog cannot get to within 1-1.5″ of the source, but the entire container is hot and has odor and can be accessed on all sides so your dog can indicate anywhere on the container.
  • Non-box containers like bags, purses, suitcases. The odor can be on the “outside” in a pocket, wheel, or handle so those would be “accessible”.
  • Other non-box containers will have enough venting so that the odor is not so “contained”.

Container vs non-container searching

Your dog’s indication in a non-container search will likely be different than in a container search.  Some things to be aware of:

  • Your dog’s indication will develop over time
  • Your job as a handler is to recognize A CHANGE OF BEHAVIOR leading to source.
  • You will learn and are ALWAYS learning to read your dog’s body language so that you can identify when your dog has reached source.
  • You won’t be able to rely on seeing a tin or a straw.
  • Your dog might nose the area strongly or perhaps touch the area with a nose or paw and then look at you, or your dog may do something else entirely.  Every dog is different!

The importance of accessible hides in the beginning

As you start to place hides, you need to make sure that the hides are accessible.  Accessible hides build confidence because the dog builds a strong belief that he can get to source and will be rewarded.  It is VERY important to build confidence in our dogs.  Confidence is the foundation layer for a strong nosework dog.  Without it, your dog will not have the drive to work through more complex scent puzzles.


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