In other sports we wouldn’t dream of not being logical with our training decisions.  In agility, would you send your dog over an A-frame for the first time (at full height no less) and hope for the best?  When teaching a dumbbell retrieve in Obedience, you wouldn’t just throw a dumbbell and see if your dog decides to retrieve it?  No!  Of course not.  But in Nosework, I see people setting hides quite randomly and then wonder why their dog lacks Confidence, Motivation or Skills…

At the very best, people sometimes set hides to work on skills but without proper understanding of how the hide will work and whether that hide will actually help the needed skill.  The hard part about this sport is that science plays a real part in whether our training setups will work or fail.  How many of us have set a high hide only to find out that odor went up instead of down?  Do you know how to avoid these pitfalls?


The key to setting a good hide is 3-fold….

(1) utilize Scent Theory to understand what the odor is likely to do,

(2) set the hide with PURPOSE so that you know what you are challenging, and

(3) know what you will accept as a YES.

Good hide placement requires STUDY and EXPERIENCE.  The Experience part can be shortened simply by understanding air flow.  Ultimately though, the more you set thoughtful hides, the easier it will become.

I tend to set hides in terms of Puzzles.  Each puzzle expands the experience of my dog.  Experience is really the only way to train a Nosework dog after all.  They come to us with a Harvard education in olfaction.  Through hide placement, we can “train” our dogs by giving them a variety of scenarios so that they can more rapidly and effectively solve a problem in a trial atmosphere.  Through these “puzzles” our dogs became Olfactory Rocket Scientists.  We simply enable them to fulfill their potential.  Add in a dose of carefully crafted handling and you end up with an amazing and unbeatable team.

Puzzles that I tend to set include a combination of one or many of these elements:

(1) Converging Odor (inaccessible and accessible)

(2) Elevation

(3) Inaccessible Hides

(4) Pooling Odor

I utilize temperature and pressure differentials to make these puzzles powerful.  Temperature and Pressure Differentials are in the end, what makes air move!

We also can’t forget PURPOSE…. When you set a hide, are you trying to build Confidence, Motivation or Skills?  Or more importantly, are you thinking of these aspects when you set hides?

4 Cornerstones Graphic

This term I’m teaching a class called NW370 Hide Placement for Powerful Training. If you are interested in learning more, I’d love to have you join!