NW Hide Highlight #5 ā€“ Vehicle Search

November 9, 2023

This is the fifth in my series of Hide Highlights. Some hides are just SO cool to watch being solved that it deserves a highlight!

I have opinions about searching Vehicles! It is so easy to get stuck on an unproductive vehicle due to blowing odor or just how cars smell from road travel. The sooner our dogs can get around all the cars, the sooner they can get into odor that will lead them to source.

I like to set the direction and have a strategy to cover the vehicles in a way to get maximum coverage early in the search. This is not “leading” the dog. It is simply setting the line that they in turn learn to drive. We can actually teach them how we want them to search vehicles. Of course if our dog is on a mission and pulls in a direction, we follow and observe and set new lines if needed.

A common approach is to take your dog around each vehicle – this can get you stuck in unproductive areas and risk getting a false alert before your dog can truly get into odor to work to source. How often have we seen a trial search where the hide is on the last vehicle only to have teams false or time out before getting to that area/vehicle. Our nerves will also come into play causing us to over search an area. A search approach that can work very well is to initially get your dog around the outside of all the vehicles or the inside (middle) of them depending on how they are setup. The goal is not always to cover all the sides, but to more efficiently get your dog into odor.

In this highlight, Jagger is a fast and furious NW dog who naturally covers an area. This was a totally dog led search and it worked perfectly! The handler didn’t need to set a line. Jagger naturally covers! This is a great example of how a dog will pick up the odor while working the area as a whole and never had to search all sides of the cars! This search was even more challenging as a blind with all hides on front license plates – trusting your dog that the hides were all indeed on the front license plates!

Think about how you or your dog tends to attack a vehicle search! Would love to hear in the comments!




  1. Barb Dobner

    Did I miss your strategy on how to set the line versus walking our dogs around each vehicle? The dog in the video appears to have found odor quickly and just went for it, which is great but Iā€™m not sure that was a new strategy. My dog does that occasionally but not on a regular basis.

    • Julie Symons

      I set a line by picking a direction to go – similar to how I may run a container search – not dog led free for all, but I’ll move in a direction for my dog to search them in a particular pattern. I am taking the lead, but not leading them around – our dogs move out ahead of us quickly so once the direction is set, then they work from there. It’s true the video example is NOT that šŸ™‚ but it shows how when a dog covers the area in a bigger swoop – they are going to pick up odor from the hides faster than if you work on vehicle at a time.

  2. Connie Lane

    Great search on this dogs part! I experienced recently with my girl in NW1 & NW2 she searched that way in a larger swoop and got the odor much faster. The first time I was a little worried but figured out she knew exactly what she was doing and your explanation helped reinforce that. Thanks Julie