Blog Blip: End of Search Hide Pick-up

April 5, 2020

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!


  1. Cynthia Neale

    Thank you so much. Love the thoughts that come with this advice. Please subscribe me. Cindy Neale

  2. Charlotte

    So what do you do when you are working multiple hides ?

    • Julie Symons

      Hi Charlotte, I had a short comment about multiple hides but removed it to keep this as short as I could. I will add it back in … my statement was: 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.

      When we are starting dogs we are only doing single hides so that is when it’s the most important, but I carry that process throughout my dogs career when I can. For example I’ll pick up the last hide in a search and I still do a lot of single hide drills. The main point is that we need to be aware of how inconsistent we can be when our dogs leave source. For example if we proof our dogs by trying to lure them away but then toss a treat allowing them to move off source to get the treat – that is not clear to them. You can transition to multiple hides by picking them up initially, but I’m a big believer that dogs need to learn to leave hides to find more and not go back to previous hides. I’ll have to write a short blog on this too!

  3. Bonnie

    Please sign me up for your site and my question is in the second video she uses a marker word but I do not hear her using a release word as in the first video

    • Julie Symons

      Will do! Yes, in the second video the handler was not using a release cue. Picking up the hot container after that last treat is still a “routine” that helps clarify the dog is released from odor. I have routinely done that with multiple hides and more recently came full circle to train it early from the start on a single hide. So I advice that now moving forward.