Embrace the NW3 Challenge

March 27, 2023

NW3 doesn’t have to be scary! It’s often described as a mind-game. It’s simply learning to run a search with unknown number of hides (range of 0-3 hides). Ok, it’s not that easy but it’s the next step that is the rest of your life in Nosework! And then it’s pretty fun!

You also won’t know how many hides there are until the end of the day. That is often the hardest part about NW3! Don’t be worried if you have many 1 hide searches! You are going to see a scattering of 1 and 2 hide searches with a blank or 3 hide search thrown in sometimes. Often dogs find all the hides quickly in the search area. We tend to stay in too long thinking there is another hide!

Blanks are part of the game too! Nosework is not just about finding hides, but clearing unproductive areas. With practice we learn how to read our dogs in areas with and without odor.

Remember that Nosework is a game of puzzles and scent puzzles require time to figure out with as much autonomy as possible. If we are interrupting them, they can’t work the odor. Some of the most common errors are pulling dogs off of working odor (even when it doesn’t look like it) or keeping a dog in an area they want to leave.

I asked my Facebook friends on what advice they would give about NW3. Here are some of them to help make your NW3 a more positive experience:
  • Take one search at a time.
  • Avoid parking lot chatter/negativity.
  • Hide placements tend to be straight forward.
  • Judges may not say anything at the end of your search – don’t read anything into it.
  • Celebrate with your dog after every search!

Below are 2 narrated NW3 searches that my youngest dog Moxie ran a few years ago.


To learn more about trialing at the NW3 level, check out my webinar on Bringing Clarity and Confidence to NW3 airing Thursday March 30th at 6pm PT/9pm EST.



  1. Cindy Pond

    Super helpful to observe you working Moxie in NW3 and your narration! thanks!

  2. Anne

    I enjoyed watching your calm handling.

  3. Frances Jones

    Great post! I love how you emphasize the importance of not getting discouraged by 1 hide searches and the fact that blanks are part of the game. I’m curious, what are some tips you have for staying focused during a search and not staying in an area too long?

    • Julie Symons

      Hi Frances – sorry I missed this question from a few months ago. For staying focused, I’d do some easy hides with high reward. If some of the issue is stamina, then I would train for searching multiple areas in a row as well as setup 6 searches to do throughout the day. Staying in an area too long is such a common issue. I gauge how long my dog can take to find a hide and then move on a bit after that time. So if I know my dog can source a hide in 30s and we are going on 45s+, I’ll move my dog on as they usually are stuck in pooling odor. This is what makes NW so interesting – we won’t always know the answer and it’s such a balance to let the dog lead and know when we should make a suggestion!