Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Review of the first NACSW™ K9 Nose Work® DVD: The Parker Videos

The National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW) just released their first DVD, The Parker Videos (2012; running time 41 minutes), a guide to getting started in the activity of K9 Nose Work that features video diary entries of one dog and handler team learning the game. You can purchase the DVD at

One of the best things about the Parker Videos DVD is what it's missing: infomercial style self-promotion. You'll be happy to know that this instructional DVD is packed with video and commentary devoted to introducing the novice handler to the activity of K9 Nose Work. The focus here is on the dogs, and in particular, Parker the doberman.

The DVD opens with a brief segment showing the viewer how to easily begin a dog in the activity of K9 Nose Work. The voice over instruction provided by Christy Waehner, CNWI (and Parker's handler), compliments the video so that a novice handler sitting at home could have her dog successfully searching boxes in no time. A transition to focusing on Parker touches on the path a dog and handler might take from attending a workshop taught by one of the founders, to working on your own and building search skills in the dog over the course of a few weeks or months. Throughout the first ten minutes of the DVD there is an emphasis on letting the dog set the pace for learning, and it's noted that before you progress too far, you want to be sure your dog shows an understanding and a desire for hunting a food or toy reward in the boxes.

The next twenty minutes of the DVD make good use of video diary footage of Parker's progression in the activity of K9 Nose Work captured over an eight month period. In addition to Christy's voice over, K9 Nose Work & NACSW co-founder, Ron Gaunt provides commentary to help the viewer understand Parker's behavior in the searches. We get to see a variety of novice level searches using boxes both indoors and outdoors, as well as a few searches with the food reward hidden in other containers or objects, or simply placed in the environment. By the end of the videos, Parker is searching for the first target odor in competition K9 Nose Work, birch essential oil on a cotton swab, and Christy and Parker are preparing for their first NACSW trial. 

What is evident from the videos of Parker searching is how successful you can make the game for the dog when you limit the size of the search area and contain the odor in a box. Watching Parker work boxes and other objects in a hallway also illustrates how much use you can get out of a single, familiar location and still keep it fun for the dog. There are several videos where handling mistakes are made - specifically, not timing the reward with Parker's discovery of the hide. I applaud Christy for including these videos and viewers should, too. In one video referred to as "basement search", Parker is doing an interior container search and she makes several attempts at alerting to the source odor, but Christy is expecting a different display of behavior. Ron, advises, "don't wait for the dog to sit down, roll over, or whistle dixie. Reward immediately." Watching these videos provides a valuable reminder to all K9 Nose Work handlers to respond to the dog, rather than waiting for what you expect the dog should do in the search.

The last ten minutes of the video are devoted to a glossary of terms used in K9 Nose Work and at NACSW sanctioned events. If you're already watching the video, it's handy to view the definitions of some of the most common terms used in the activity and sport, but if you're looking for a quick access reference tool, it won't be too useful.

While The Parker Videos DVD is clearly aimed at novice handlers who may not have the benefit of joining a weekly instructor-led class, there's plenty here for intermediate and seasoned handlers, too. For less than the price of one weekly class, you get a well summarized refresher on the foundational concepts of getting a dog started in K9 Nose Work, as well as an opportunity to sharpen your observational skills and begin to see how certain patterns emerge in the behavior of every dog as they progress in the activity. Watching the way Parker searches in the series of videos reminded me that when doing searches with my own dog, I need to look for odor obedience - which doesn't always mean the dog is going to go the most direct route to the hide. As a training aid for getting started in K9 Nose Work, a refresher on the basics, or a simple study of a novice K9 Nose Work dog's search behavior over time, The Parker Videos DVD will not disappoint.

I had an opportunity to speak with the founders of K9 Nose Work & the NACSW about their first DVD release. They chose to work closely with Christy and Parker because of their well-documented journey from Intro to K9 Nose Work workshop to searching for the first target odor; as co-founder Amy Herot describes it, "It's a rare situation that you can follow one dog through all the various stages of K9 Nose Work." The hope is that Christy will continue to document Parker's journey for future DVDs (Christy and Parker recently earned an NW1 title), allowing viewers to benefit from the consistency of one dog progressing in K9 Nose Work.

The NACSW is also working on other DVDs, with the intention of showing the wide variety of dogs who enjoy K9 Nose Work at every stage of the game from beginner to competition level. You can expect that some of these DVDs will prominently feature the founders, NACSW faculty, and CNWIs, and will focus on the philosophy and training methodology of K9 Nose Work. As more DVDs become available, there should be a useful mix of students or attendees of workshops applying their learning - as in The Parker Videos - and DVDs featuring more direct instruction from the NACSW. 

Check out The Parker Videos DVD for yourself and post a comment with your thoughts. And, don't forget to keep a video camera running during your K9 Nose Work practice sessions - you never know if you and your dog might be the next stars of an NACSW K9 Nose Work DVD!

Happy Sniffing!     

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