Monday, December 31, 2012

A K9 Nose Work® "Dog In Bloom" By Paula Nowak, CNWI™

As the activity and sport of K9 Nose Work continue to grow rapidly throughout the country, more dog and handler teams are finding opportunities to build their skills in classes and to enter competitions, experiencing new kinds of success. Achieving success - or watching others achieve it - at any level of class or competition can create an expectation of continued success, and can sometimes cause us handlers - often unintentionally - to put a lot of pressure on our dogs to perform. As handlers, we can easily forget who our dogs were before K9 Nose Work and what kind of awe inspiring transformations they've undergone since their journeys began. Most importantly, we can forget that K9 Nose Work is and should be all about the dogs. Paula Nowak's post is a wonderful reminder to treat our dogs with care and patience, playing the game at their pace and enjoying the unique journey we each share with our dogs, as well as the joys of belonging to a community of likeminded dogs and people; all the while knowing that, in time, beautiful things will happen for our dogs in K9 Nose Work.

A Dog In Bloom
by Paula Nowak, CNWI

A rose in bloom is very beautiful, smells good and can brighten someone’s day. It’s a flower that symbolizes love for many people. This flower is also very beautiful while it is still just a bud and as it gradually opens up it slowly progresses to full bloom, which is when it reaches its full potential. The rose’s bloom cycle (the time from pruning the plant until bloom) can be anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks.  Ask anyone who enjoys these flowers and they will tell you it’s worth the wait.

A typical Intro to K9 Nose Work group class covers a 6-week period. During this time each dog has a short amount of time to search within an hour or a little more once a week. In many cases, in this small amount of time once a week, or even within the first week’s session, you’ll see a change in the dog’s level of security and confidence for those dogs who are fearful. The same is true for those fearful dogs that have their first K9 Nose Work experience at a workshop. It’s amazing to the observer how much a dog can change in such a small period of time. For dogs that are in a 6-week course you may see a large change in behavior of various sizes each week.

The “bloom cycle” for a dog to build confidence through K9 Nose Work is very different than the bloom cycle of a rose. There is no set time frame to expect a dog to change in confidence and that is a hard realization for some owners. There is really no guarantee as to when the dog will make progress, but I can attest that it’s very much worth the wait!

Recently, a student in an Intro to Nose Work group class had a fearful dog that had a very challenging time with mild noises or new objects in the search area.  On week 6, he initially thought a folding chair lying flat on the floor was going to kill him. By the end of the night he was able to work a simple hide near the “killer” chair. His mom really felt like he’d progressed, but saw the other dogs in class progressing faster and it seemed she wished he’d been able to progress more. Fast forward to his 7th week (week 1 of his second round of K9 Nose Work) and he was a very different dog. He was much more confident than the previous week. Everyone who’d seen him the previous week, including me, was shocked at the amount of confidence. From that week forward he continued to amaze us by searching in different environments with a new confidence.

It’s sad to think we might have missed his blooming moment, had his mom stopped at his first 6-week course thinking he wasn’t progressing fast enough. The impact K9 Nose Work has on a dog’s behavior cannot always be predicted, but the results time and again show how much it can help them build confidence and help them bloom into a more balanced dog.

Post a comment sharing your dog's "blooming moment" or other special achievement that you gave your dog time and support to realize on his own terms in K9 Nose Work.

Happy Sniffing & Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Your All Access Pass to Inaccessible Hides in K9 Nose Work®: Part Two

For part two of our inaccessible hides post, we're going to focus on: handling tips for blind inaccessible hides, what to do about safety versus letting your dog try to get to source, and when an inaccessible hide doesn't have to be inaccessible.

Keep in mind that your job is to reinforce your dog's communication of the location of source odor. To do this properly you need to know what kind of communication you want, and what you will accept as part of the learning process. Particularly when working inaccessible hides, accept and reward the early signs of interest from your dog, and build up her motivation to work to a strong, clear communication of the location of the hide. Always remember to keep the learning fun for your dog, and to make success achievable. 

Handling blind inaccessible hides and when to make the call - Your best strategy in any blind hide situation is to let your dog lead - but make sure she's covering the entire search area - and to support her with a call of alert when she's actively searched, locked down an area and given her final response. Anything more should be worked out in training.

When there may be inaccessible hides, you should have the following incorporated into your handling as second nature:

1) know your dog's signs that odor is present, but not accessible - if your dog is working a bank of lockers and casting back and forth or jumping up and down between two points, and taking longer than usual to make a decision, those are signs that odor is present, but not accessible. Circling a cluttered area or a table with chairs, looking for an access point, is also a sign. Heavy interest in a closed object, like a file cabinet, or closed door on a wall cabinet or to a room - likely signs of inaccessible odor.

2) give support to even the slightest behavior change - inaccessible odor may also present the added challenge of odor that is mostly trapping at the source, or escaping in ways that make working it back to source extra difficult. A cabinet hide can require several passes from your dog before she makes a real commitment to work the odor to its source. In some cases, she'll show the slightest interest as she passes the source or she'll show interest in the surrounding area, but you'll have to be an eagle-eyed observer.

Even if you're a hyper-vigilant handler, your dog may not show any perceivable interest in the cabinet hide, which means you'll have to do some non-blind training and expose your dog to more of that type of inaccessible hide with a low volume of odor escaping. It's not that your dog can't smell the hide, she just needs to learn that it's important to commit to it like any other hide.

3) be patient, you'll recognize the final final response when you finally see it - once you know your dog is working odor, pay careful attention to where she's working and how she's responding to odor that may be out of her reach. In many inaccessible hide scenarios you may get behavior from your dog that resembles her final response, but if you step back and let her work, you'll see that she's still working out the location of the hide. When she gets as close as she can to the hide, you'll know it.

The big thing to watch for in the whole process is the "ah-ha!" moment from your dog. Some dogs are more subtle than others, but every dog will look noticeably different when they finally get as close to source odor as possible.

A hide placed five or six feet above the ground on a busy wall (cable wires, pipes or downspouts, faucets, etc. below or near the hide) illustrates the difference between behavior resembling a final response and the "ah-ha!", real-deal final response. Odor travelling down the wall may pool at one or two places and cause your dog to react with a shoulder shrug, half-hearted final response that is usually lacking any detail sniffing of the chosen area, and is very often abandoned by your dog the moment your brain is telling your mouth to say alert. If you let your dog work just a little longer, you'll see her follow the scent past the pooling odor areas, higher and higher, until she can't stretch any further, and then you'll see the "ah-ha!" moment.

On the rare occasion that odor is low & accessible, but your dog is showing all the signs of being in high inaccessible odor, try to pay attention to what brought her to the area she's working. It may be that there was no strong behavior change leading to her leaping up a sign post, or climbing a wall, and if you move to another part of the search area, she'll drop what she's sniffing and follow you - a good sign that she never believed there was source odor in that area anyway. No matter where the odor is, you always want to see that your dog has caught the scent (a head turn, a direction change, putting on the brakes, etc.), worked to narrow down an area, and shown a clear signal that she is as close as she can get to the source of the odor.

Your dog practices odor obedience, you should practice obedience to safe handling skills - There is never a time in K9 Nose Work where you would be expected to put your dog at risk of physical harm. That doesn't mean there won't be search areas with potential safety hazards, it just means as a handler, you control your dog's safety. If odor is placed on a countertop, allowing your dog to jump on the countertop to get her nose right on the source of the odor is not safe for your dog. If odor is placed deep behind the wheel of a car, letting your dog go under the car or disappear in the wheel well is not safe. To keep your dog safe, train by rewarding interest before she puts herself in a potentially dangerous position.

Safety issues often develop when the handler has an expectation of where the dog should choose to indicate the source of an inaccessible odor, but the dog is indicating somewhere else. Frustration builds for the dog as she tries to satisfy the handler; that frustration can lead to the dog jumping, climbing, or squeezing her way to odor, often in ways that increase the threat to her safety.

The best way to help with these searches is to stop thinking so much about where the hide is located and where you think your dog should be giving her final response and just watch your dog work. Just because you know the odor is in the top left corner of a bathroom vanity cabinet doesn't make that top left corner the best or the only allowable call of alert. The same goes for certain parts of a vehicle where it's not easy for a handler to know how odor is travelling and where the dog would pick it up strongest and give a final response.

If you've got a push cart that's resting in a corner, and odor is placed under the cart at the furthest point into the corner, you might expect your dog to be drawn as close to the odor as possible, but what if odor is travelling straight across the underside of the cart to the side furthest away from the odor, and that's where your dog is indicating? In most situations, that's a good call. The dog knows better than we do where the odor is concentrating and how it's moving, so we should trust and reward him for good problem solving skills.

Safe handling skills come into play when your dog wants to get on that push cart and try to get to the source of the odor. If you're comfortable with your dog getting on a moving object and possibly hurting herself, that's a handling decision. While you might be more comfortable calling alert because your dog made such an effort to climb to the back of the cart, a handler whose dog is only allowed to sniff the cart from the ground can call alert and still be correct.

While your dog's safety should always be a top concern, don't be afraid to let her search most areas freely (with the exception of vehicles), allowing her to get on her hind legs and stretch to reach higher spots. Climbing onto a picnic table in an exterior search can sometimes be the key to working out an odor puzzle that - even though it could be reached from the ground - might only be solvable for your dog from up above. As long as your dog can make the most of her physical abilities to give you a clear indication of where source odor is (it's here within my reach, or it's way up there beyond where my nose is pointing), there's no need to ask her to risk her safety to give you an "it's right here, stupid!" final response.

It is important to remember that in training non-blind inaccessible odor, when rewarding your dog, always make the reward appear to come from the actual source of the odor. If your dog alerts at the bottom left corner of a cabinet and the hide is actually at the top left corner, your reward should come from the top left corner. Depending on where your dog is at in her training, you may allow her to work the hide a second time and wait for her to follow the odor back to it's source before rewarding.

The amazing inaccessible accessible hide! - it's not a K9 Nose Work magic trick, some hides are just tricky and can be physically within reach, but still a few sniffs away for your dog. A hide placed deep under an office desk that's pushed against a wall, might only be partially blocked by a trash bin and a desk chair, leaving a pathway to the hide big enough for almost any dog. Despite relatively easy access to the hide, there may be nothing drawing the dogs to take that path. What there might be instead is a low volume of odor escaping and causing interest in another part of the search area, and/or a strong concentration of odor leading the dogs away from the easy access point and towards the barriers like the chair or the trash bin, making the dogs think they're in a truly inaccessible odor situation.

A hide like the desk hide should be worked right to source odor. For dogs that get hung up working obstructions like the chair or trash bin, if you get behavior from your dog indicating that what she's searching for is past the chair and past the trash bin, even though she's not physically as close as possible to the odor, she's clearly communicating where it is and is not - that's rewardable; just make sure to allow - or help - your dog find a path that leads to the source odor. A dog that indicates on the seat back of the chair, not even indicating that the source of the hide is under the desk, would not be communicating clearly enough to be considered a success for that search; if asked to point out the location of the hide, the handler would answer, incorrectly, "the chair", instead of the correct call, "under the desk, deep in the back left corner". For that dog, verbal praise can be doled out, and the chair should be moved away from the desk so the dog can rule the chair out and have better access to the hide.

Ideally, you want your dog to end up working independently to find the access point in these seemingly inaccessible hide scenarios, but being able to clearly communicate that this is as far as she can get, but it's not as close as she can get, will be a huge help. Such communication will tell you when an object of interest might be a barrier and not the location of the hide, prompting you to move the barrier or help your dog gain access from another point in the search area.

When you and your dog are ready for inaccessible hides, make sure to use a CNWI or ANWI to guide you through the process; and don't forget: accept less to get more. By properly motivating your dog and giving her a clear path to follow, you will be amazed at the increased level of problem solving she will be capable of in K9 Nose Work.

Happy Sniffing & Happy Holidays (keep those holiday cookies and candies completely inaccessible to your dogs!)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Your All Access Pass to Inaccessible Hides in K9 Nose Work®: Part One

There's a lot to learn in K9 Nose Work before taking on the challenges of an inaccessible hide. Dogs need lots of reinforcement going right to source for their reward, and handlers need lots of practice observing their dogs working odor to its source. Once a dog has developed a strong odor obedience and her handler is clear on when to reward, it's time to work some inaccessible hides.

keep in mind - if you're competing in K9 Nose Work, the NW1 level tests your dog's ability to get to accessible source odor. At the NW2 & NW3 levels is where you may encounter inaccessible source odor. There's so much to train for to be successful at the NW1 level that if you are working towards your first title, you should train mainly on accessible hides. Even at the NW2 & NW3 levels you should keep inaccessible hides down to around 20-25% of the searches you do and always do accessible hide searches as part of every practice session.  

What is inaccessible? - The most obvious examples of inaccessible hides are those that are contained within a larger object, like drawers or cabinets, and those that are out of reach, like a hide six feet off the ground or on a countertop behind a microwave.

Inaccessible hides can also be hides that appear accessible to us humans, but, for various reasons, are not accessible to our dogs. An example might be a hide on the underside of a wire shelving unit with plastic containers stacked on the shelves. The hide appears accessible from underneath the bottommost level of shelving, and maybe even from above that level of shelving by creating a space between containers that would expose the hide. Some dogs could squeeze into the space between the floor and the bottommost level of shelving, but what if the odor is not drawing the dogs to crawl under the shelving? What if, the odor is actually moving in such a way that it collects at the far corner of the shelving unit where the wheel is? What if the dog is too big to fit under the shelving, or what if the dog is too scared to crawl under the shelving?

What might be considered inaccessible in one scenario, for one dog, may be accessible in another scenario or for another dog - or may become accessible further along in the dog's training. Part of what makes it difficult to label a hide as accessible or inaccessible is that dogs come in different sizes, with different temperaments, and different abilities, all affecting how and if they can get to the source of the odor. In addition to the dogs, a variety of environmental factors - wind, temperature, surface area of objects, safety hazards, etc. - can affect the accessibility of a hide.

Get your dog cozy with the odor before you put it out of reach - If there is one thing to impress upon all K9 Nose Work teams, it is this: Make certain that your dog has experience working plenty of hides that are within her nose's reach. A dog with lots of reinforcement working hides she can reach will probably transition very nicely to hides that are truly inaccessible. Now, a dog without lots of practice getting right on the hides that can be accessed may also do very nicely with inaccessible hides, but she may falter on those trickier accessible odor problems.

Table hides are good illustrators of the potential problems a team could face with hides that can and should be accessed by the dog. A hide placed just under the edge of a table top about a foot or so from a corner/leg should be accessible to the majority of dogs. What this means is that the dogs should not decide the source of the odor is at the corner of the table, they should not decide it is on the top of the table, they should decide the source of the odor is on the source of the odor! If you set up a hide like this and your dog gives you a false alert, there's work to be done before you go all crazy with a hide in the top drawer of your office file cabinet four feet above the ground.

Here's where you'll want to enlist the expertise of a CNWI or ANWI. An experienced instructor can guide you and your dog through the process of introducing complex accessible hides. Even more importantly, an instructor can do the following:

Assure you that your dog is not suffering while she works out the difficult accessible odor problem

Keep you from rewarding for a false alert

With the help of your instructor, you'll still have some "holding your breath" moments while your dog works to source the hide, but you'll be so proud - and thankful for your instructor's patience - when she alerts right on source and has a real epiphany. With regular practice setting out accessible hides that require some problem solving on your dog's part, you'll see how quickly she learns and how much your confidence in her abilities increases.

Make a few stops on the road from accessible hides to inaccessible hides - Give your dog a chance to work hides that are harder and harder to access before going completely out of her reach. This can be higher hides that require her to stretch, hides that are blocked by items - chairs, boxes, a mostly closed door - and require going around, over, under, or squeezing through. You want your dog to really feel there's a strong incentive to put out some effort to reach the source odor. Not to mention, this can work wonders on dogs with environmental sensitivity. Have a dog who is afraid to go under a picnic table? Placing hides so that she has to stretch just a little more, take just one more step under the table, etc., to find the odor and get rewarded is a huge confidence booster.

The first inaccessible hides your dog works should be confidence builders - Choose areas without a lot of environmental challenges for your dog to contend with as you begin to work inaccessible hides. Start inside, pick a hide placement that will give your dog a chance to put the scent and the source together like an invisible odor chain. Try a hide that is out of reach and near a corner or somewhere where the odor can collect a little stronger to help lead your dog back to source - a large piece of furniture like a highboy or hutch works well. When you move outside, use a downspout or the corner of a window sill to introduce an inaccessible hide.

Accept less to get more - Amy Herot, K9 Nose Work & NACSW co-founder, has coined this phrase for training inaccessible hides. The idea is that if you start off by rewarding your dog for showing a slight interest in an inaccessible hide, then you will motivate your dog to work longer and harder to make a strong, clear commitment to odor in that search; and, in subsequent searches your dog will make a much faster, clearer commitment to source odor.

This really works, but you'll probably need the assistance of an instructor to help you identify the "less" that you should accept from your dog. You'll also need to devote the time to let your dog progress to the "more", or the strong and clear commitment to inaccessible odor that is your goal.

My favorite types of hides to work using this training philosophy are hides that are suspended with no nearby vertical surfaces - a hide on an awning or low hanging tree branch - and hides that are blocked by objects and set back several feet from the edge of those objects, think a hide on a bathroom vanity mirror with the vanity and a trash can blocking access. When you reward a dog for scenting in the area of the suspended hide and then looking up - rather than waiting two minutes, hoping your dog will start springing up and down beneath the hide - you get a dog who is much more eager to spring up and down the next time and much more reliable in subsequent - and blind - searches. This is especially useful for dogs who frustrate easily and may give up rather than work and work until you decide their efforts are worth a reward. For this type of dog, rewarding the initial interest keeps the dog motivated to work longer and harder to find that source odor.

There is never a set formula you can just plug in for working inaccessible hides - a dog with lots of experience can also benefit from the accept less to get more training philosophy. Still, as your dog gains experience with inaccessible hides, you can certainly wait for a little more of a commitment, a little clearer of a sign, before rewarding.

Next week, in Part Two of this post, we'll discuss how to handle blind inaccessible hides, what to do about safety versus letting your dog try to get to source, and when an inaccessible hide doesn't have to be inaccessible.

Happy Sniffing!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Playing it Safe in K9 Nose Work®

There continues to be an ongoing discussion about safety concerns for dogs and people when practicing and competing in K9 Nose Work, in large part due to the real world aspects of playing the game. When you and your dog do K9 Nose Work, you're interacting with the environment around you in ways that you wouldn't in an agility ring or in a tracking field. Any place you go to do K9 Nose Work could have hazards ranging from sharp or broken objects, discarded food and bones, cleaning chemicals, extreme surface temperatures, and other people or animals. It's important to understand what should be removed from an environment, what should be avoided, and whose responsibility it is to manage the safety of a search area.

Practicing on Your Own - when you do K9 Nose Work with your dog on your own, you are fully responsible for the safety of your team. It's a wise idea to inspect areas you intend to use for searches and remove any obvious hazards (sharp objects or food). It's also important to look for uneven terrain, drop-offs or holes, unstable objects or surfaces, and sharp edges in the environment. Remember that your dog will be very focused on the task of finding the source odor and as a result may be a little less focused on the terrain or objects in the environment.

Competing in NACSW™ Trials - When you enter a trial, you travel to a predetermined location and search different areas within that location (occasionally, you may travel between two or more locations for a single trial). To provide a rewarding experience for dog and handler teams, trials are usually designed around the environment found at the location; so if it's a school, the search areas will be in the actual classrooms, courtyards, and athletic fields found on the school grounds. This makes for a real world search experience, but it also means that real world hazards may be present.

NACSW officials make every effort to remove hazards from search areas, but sometimes an area may have a number of hazards that cannot be removed, like in a machine shop, a lumber yard, or any area that has large or permanently affixed objects. In these cases, the NACSW makes sure to brief competitors on the known potential safety concerns of a search area. Whenever possible, competitors are given a walk-through of the day's search areas so they may visually inspect the areas from the boundaries and raise any concerns for safety of themselves and their dogs. If any search area were to appear too dangerous to a competitor, participation in a trial is voluntary and competitors may withdraw from an element search or an entire trial (see the official NACSW rule book or contact an NACSW official for questions).

What's Unsafe and What's Just Unknown or Scary? - There is a difference between a search area with safety hazards and a search area within which your dog may not feel comfortable. Unusual surfaces can create problems for some dogs; certain types of smooth or glossy flooring, pine needles on the forest floor, etc., can all mess with your dog's search mojo. Your dog may not feel comfortable and may even appear afraid if confronted with unusual types of flooring, even when there is no threat to his safety. In this case, you can try to practice K9 Nose Work on as many unusual surfaces as possible and hope that your dog begins to feel more comfortable, or you can know that some search areas may present problems unique to your team. If there are moving objects - like desk chairs with wheels or push carts - within a search area, those objects could frighten a dog if they move when contacted. Just like with unusual flooring, most dogs can be desensitized to moving objects by setting up simple searches on the scary objects and allowing the dog to view them as potentially rewarding. Remember, most dogs are like gambling addicts, one jackpot (toy or treat reard at source odor) will have them pulling that slot machine lever (going back to scary object) a thousand times just on the hopes of another jackpot.

Sometimes, certain surfaces and objects can actually be unsafe. If flooring in a search area is wet and slippery and there is a high probability of human or dog injury, that is unsafe, and would probably be addressed for all competitors trialling that day. In certain situations, moving objects might be unsafe. A dog could jump on an object and lose his footing because it's unstable or moves unexpectedly. Vehicles are not usually scary or unsafe to most dogs, but if a dog wants to chase odor deep under a vehicle or into a wheel well it could become very unsafe.

There is a way to protect your dog from the dangers of most unsafe objects: restraint. To avoid the tragedy of your dog getting trapped under a vehicle: DO NOT LET YOUR DOG GO UNDER A VEHICLE. The same restraint can be applied as needed to objects like push carts, tables and desks, shelving, stacks of boxes, countertops, etc. If an odor is placed inside of an upper wall cabinet above a kitchen counter, it's true that it is physically possible for a dog to leap or climb onto a countertop and get right on the cabinet door seam where the odor is hidden, but it is not safe or necessary. That same hide can be found by a Bull Terrier whose nose may not even break the plane of the countertop. Remember that our dogs' understanding of scent is far deeper than we can even hypothesize. Always place your dog's safety over your expectation that he get to the source of the hide, especially when you feel the conditions may be unsafe.

Keeping it Safe On Leash - As a handler working your dog on leash, you literally control where he can go. For K9 Nose Work, we talk about being careful not to overcorrect or influence your dog when performing on leash searches, but when safety is the concern, you need to take the lead and keep your dog out of harm's way.

Keeping it Safe Off Leash - Just make sure you have solid recall on your dog to warn and prevent him from putting himself in harm's way. If the search area is big and busy and has potential safety hazards - stacked chairs or lots of computer cables dangling from desks - put your dog on leash and take control of his safety.

How to Handle Going to Source Safely - If you can teach your dog what is acceptable when working in and around potential safety hazards, you will have to do a lot less in the way of managing his safety in a search area.

Vehicles - Sometimes odor is not accessible without a dog going hip deep into a wheel well or under a rear bumper, but that's not always safe. If you teach your dog that going head or shoulders deep (depends on the size of your dog) is far enough, that is what he will learn to do.

If you pick a hide placement deep inside a wheel well and let your dog search, as soon as his nose leads him to stick his head in the wheel well, you can reward. As you continue practicing these types of vehicle searches, you can wait a bit longer before rewarding, but make sure not to allow your dog to go too deep into a wheel well or under the car. What you want to see eventually, is your dog making the decision to alert to odor without having to put himself in a dangerous position.

Some dogs really have a strong desire to get to source and will not alert until they can reach it; these dogs just need more practice and need to do it in more locations and over a longer period of time before they catch on to what we're asking.

Exteriors - If you wouldn't normally let your dog inspect a pool of stagnant, dirty water or a rat carcass, then you shouldn't let him closely investigate these things in a search. If you're working an area with retaining walls or ramps that lead several feet above ground level, think of all the safe ways your dog can search these areas. Some retaining walls are a few feet high on one side and ten feet high on the other; if your dog wants to see what's on the other side, walk him safely around the wall instead of letting him get on top or jump over.

If your search area has large objects in it, like sawhorses with stacks of plywood on them or commercial trash dumpsters, there's no reason to have your dog climb on top of or into those objects to alert to the presence of odor. An odor tin stuck inside a trash dumpster doesn't need to be nose-touched, your dog just needs to be able to communicate to you that source odor is in the dumpster.

Interiors - Here, you want to closely observe what your dog is trying to do, and help him do it safely. If he's trying to maneuver around a desk and chair where wires are dangling, call him before he gets tangled up and reposition him for safe access. If he's trying to crawl under or climb over something, help him get around it instead.

Some safety issues can arise out of the dog's frustration over not being able to source the odor, or being able to source the odor, but not being supported by the handler with an alert. A dog trying to alert to odor in a stapler on a desk might get frustrated and try jumping on the desk if the handler can't make a call based on the dog's behavior. Don't put your dog in danger because you're not comfortable making an alert call.

Containers - There are fewer safety concerns in a container search - just remember to keep your leash from dragging around on the ground to avoid getting it caught on a container and potentially harming your dog.

If you take one thing away from this post, it should be that search areas in K9 Nose Work are almost always real-world environments, and that regardless of the level of hazard-proofing an area has undergone, you the handler should be aware of potential safety hazards and prepared to prevent injury to your dog.

Enjoy searching safely and marvel at how willingly your dog will adapt to safely search things like vehicles and moving objects if you provide him with the right learning opportunities.

Happy Sniffing!