I’ll be doing a series of short blogs – a blip in your day when the extra time we thought we all had is now full with ALL THE THINGS being offered and shared online due to COVID19. Hope you have a minute in your day for a glimpse into my training thoughts!

End of search routine

One of my core components when teaching Nosework is a dog’s understanding to stay at source. They have value for target odor and insist that it’s there. That might sound obvious but many dogs don’t have a clear understanding of what to do once they find odor. If we back chain the steps, it will become super clear to them on what is expected.

Before my dogs truly understand that odor is the name of the game, I develop an end routine. No matter your approach – trained indication, reinforced indication, reading your dog – if they don’t understand what ends the search, our job will be a lot harder.

A simple approach

From day one, NEVER let your dog leave target odor on their own. Never. Use a cue that means they are released from the hide and pick up the hide/container. By picking up the hide, the dog can not voluntarily leave source. Here is an example:

Especially when doing drills which allow for high rate of repetitions, it’s even more important we don’t practice leaving odor for that many times. It’s too easy for a dog to leave odor when we are not careful and then for them to not know when they are supposed to stay. When reinforcement is done, the hide is picked up. Nothing else happens between the last treat and picking up the hide. Here is a short example of consistently picking up the hot container between repetitions.

For this discussion we are only talking about a single hide being out. Handling multiple hides is a another discussion that is based on this core understanding.


Dogs thrive with routine and clarity. Simply end the search by releasing your dog from odor (I use “ok”) and then pick up the hide before you reset for the next repetition or end the session. For me it’s a core fundamental concept. Stay at source until an established routine and cue tell you otherwise.

Having a routine and a predictable flow to the work is very appealing and appreciated by our canine partners!