The whole world is in a crisis… Trials, at least in the very near future, are being cancelled. It’s truly terrifying, especially for those of us who are high-risk ourselves or have loved ones who are. Nosework is by design, a sport that allows for social distancing. With trials cancelled, folks may be thinking,”Now what?” My suggestion is to use this time to REALLY train. Train and build on fundamentals. In an effort to help, I plan on writing a series of blogs to perhaps give some inspiration and ideas for things you can work on. We WILL get out of this on the other side… The only thing I can go is maybe help you get to the other side with a better trained dog.
What IS Sourcing?
Sourcing is one of the most misunderstood phrases in our sport. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding can cause tons of training issues. Let’s talk about the language:
What Sourcing is NOT: Sourcing is NOT pin-pointing. It’s not trying to get the dog to freeze on a tiny point that is not one inch in error to either side. Sourcing is only pin-pointing when you negate air flow and you are working in 2-dimensions (such as using a scent wall).
What Sourcing IS: Sourcing is the desire to continue to work as close to source as possible, and it is agnostic to the final response. When you increase the DESIRE to get to source, the dog is able to work the hide in 3-dimensions in any air flow situation.
What the downfall of Pin-Pointing?
This is where I lose most people… there is such a movement out there for people wanting to look like the Pros and to build a nose freeze into their dogs as a final response. Although I am not against a nose freeze, I try to warn people that IF you go that route, be aware that you MUST execute your training with excellence and a real understanding of what Sourcing is in order to avoid serious issues.
Well executed (short-term emphasis) Pin-pointing exercises have their place. Pin-pointing is NOT about putting the nose on the hide. It’s really just about the dog realizing what the human considers to be correct. This is where the need for balance comes in… IF you over-emphasize this step, your dog will worry more about what you consider to be correct, than actually working to source. I see this so often as it results in the dog freezing on many, many objects in the vicinity of odor as he or she tries to guess where the handler will finally reward. (This results in the handler worrying about false alerts… and unfortunately also results in more pin-pointing exercises).
A dog who is focused on Pin-pointing becomes less precise as the hide conditions become more complex. Inaccessible hides for dogs trained to emphasize pin-pointing can be very stressful.
Pin-pointing DOES create clarity for the dog. But once you have that, Pin-pointing exercises need to be set aside, only to be brought out again briefly when needed.
So what then IS Sourcing?
Sourcing is the DESIRE to get to source. Recently I flew on an airplane to get to a seminar to teach. Because of germ worries, I paid to upgrade my seat to Business Class thinking that there would be fewer people (I was correct). Well… as I was sitting there, the stewardess came by with dinner and in my haste I knocked my tablet off of the armrest and it fell behind the empty seat next to me. So the stewardess and me both were trying to reach the tablet. We DID get it back. Interestingly… with the tablet just at fingertip reach, my desire to reach farther in to get it increased dramatically. THAT IS SOURCING.
We can easily extrapolate this concept and use something that I all the “Deep Accessible Hide” to build the desire to get to source. THAT is how we ultimately build Sourcing skills!
(By the way, once the Pros get off the Scent Wall, they are always working on the DESIRE to get to source….)
A change in language…
Try to change your language away from “Sourcing”, and rather think of it as “Drive to Source”. Once you make that fundamental change in your language, you will be amazed at the results of your training!
When we think of the word “Sourcing”, it’s too easy to default to Pin-pointing. When we think of “Drive to Source”, we start to consider the aspect of DESIRE.
There are THREE STEPS in this training approach
This is where this blog becomes instructive. I’m going to give you the steps necessary to build these skills. I would love very much if you practiced these steps and reported back in the blog comments! People ask me, “Why do you reveal your secrets?” My answer is that my goal in sharing information is to help grow and propel this sport into a higher level of competency. I love sharing knowledge because I think it benefits all of us.
Step 1: Pin-Pointing
Although this step has downfalls, it IS VERY helpful! Your dog has to understand how to settle on source.
I developed the following exercise a couple of years ago to build this capability in my own dogs. This is a video of Brava. She is about 6 months old in this video. She is currently almost 3 years old and is getting ready to enter NACSW Elite trials. She has her NW3 Elite (earned all 3 NW3 titles in only 3 tries!) and her AKC Scent Work Master title. She also has an Advanced title from SDDA in Canada.
In this exercise I use a collection of electrical switch boxes. When she chooses the correct box with the tin, I mark her and then toss the cookie away while I rearrange the boxes. Although I DO reward at source when I am searching, in this case it’s OK to reward away from source. Chasing the cookie builds motivation. Sometimes we need to be ok with doing things differently in exercises. (NOTE: Although I use a clicker in this exercise, I don’t use one for general training)
Step 2: Weird Hide Game
This is a game I developed in order to challenge the dog’s contextual understanding of our hide placement. Did you know that you automatically create patterns in your own hide placement that your dog understands? Dogs have an incredible understanding of context. Have you ever given a 9 year child hides and asked them to hide them for your dog? I guarantee that you will get hides that are out of the ordinary! (If you have a child home from school right now, I would encourage you to include them in your training of Weird Hides!)
Here’s an example of Weird Hides… the first hide is on the middle center back support under the bed. The second hide is on a door hinge that the dog can only access by getting on top of the second bed.
Step 3: Deep Accessible Hides
In the third step we add on to the DESIRE for source that Step 2 started to build. This is also the step that is the FOUNDATION for Inaccessible hides! This is the step that builds that beautiful desire to reach source.
In this step, you want to set hides that the dog has to really work Over, Under, Through, or Around in order to get to. The dog in this case needs to think and work out the spatial environment. This is where we trigger that beautiful desire to get to source.
Here’s an example of a “Deep Accessible” hide that set recently while teaching a seminar. The hide is on the back left wheel! All of the dogs in this seminar worked this as an Accessible hide. THAT is Sourcing!
As we do the Deep Accessible hide it’s important to mark when your dog gets TO the hide, NOT on the final response! This helps to build the understanding of Push to Source.
Eventually, this turns into an ability to work Inaccessible Hides. Here’s a video of Brava pushing into an Inaccessible hide while utilizing her Deep Accessible skills.
Ultimately, by following these steps, you will create a Drive To Source Maniac! If you have a dog stuck on Pin-pointing, work on Steps 2 and 3. I you have a tentative dog, work on Steps 2 and 3. Just work the steps!
My plan is to release training tips throughout this crisis that we are going through. I hope this helps you! Please subscribe for more blogs!
Thank you this is just what we need at the moment
Wonderful! Just starting over with my 2 year old who doesn’t tell me where the hide is now but sniffs everywhere. She has her Advanced SDDA title too.
Thank you looking forward to more training blogs.
Thank you for this, I fell into the pit of pinpointing with a focus on the final response. This helps me in seeing the bigger picture.
Thanks, this will be a fun concept to train.
What is the best indication which is best for all circumstances?
I like to let the dog choose personally… but the indication isn’t related to sourcing anyway… focus on marking when the dog reaches source. the indication will come later 🙂
Thank you! I know now not to pin point to death and that indication isn’t related to sourcing. Very helpful I am sure!
Terrific and timely. Thank you!
Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
Excellent, and very timely! Thank you for posting.
Thank you for clarifying with videos and follow up comments.
Thanks so much for sharing
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Thank you! all of my nose work classes were just put on hold until further notice here in California :(. I was trying to figure out what drills to give my students while they are stuck at home. Always appreciate your logic and clarity, Stacy
Thank you. I had thought about using clicker marker in my scent-work training, clickers were never utilized in any of my NW classes over the years though i use them in agility,ob, tricks, etc. just never came up.
Hi Barbara… I actually DON’T use a clicker when training Nosework. I DID use it for this exercise. But that’s a subject for a whole other blog…. LOL!
This is very good information, thank you for sharing.
“ Step 2 started two build.”.
I have gift for finding typos. 🙂
LOL!!! I just saw that… hopefully the content helped!
It did. 🙂
Thanks so much for sharing ur knowledge Stacy. The article about inaccessible hides was interesting, how the dog should go into strange places working source, I have a ridgeback and they are very cautious breed and he won’t go into place he feels unsure of, so that’s a challenge
Start easy…. build confidence little by little…. make sure you keep the hides accessible.
Something positive in today’s world! Thank you so much!!! Good info for anytime but especially appreciated now!
Thanks I love taking your seminars and classes. This keeps us going until the next one.
Very interesting! I was having a false alert problem, where my girls were saying, “this is good enough, its in this general area…” So, I worked on pinpointing, with no search. I then added some “Empowerment Games” (Julie Daniels FDSA Class 280) to promote more drive, having them push for food, taking the nosework scents out of the picture. This also involves your cheeseball hunt game. It all seems to be coming together nicely when I apply it to simple nosework searches. Over the next couple weeks, I plan on adding inaccessible hides, and making them deeper, but first just with cheeseballs, later with actual odor. With all this new time on my hands, I’m breaking everything down.
My dog has nose freeze but also is happy to push and get over, under things to find odour. She is not afraid of confined spaces and this was some of her natural environmental confidence. We expanded on that natural confidence when practicing at big box stores going in/on/under shelves, cubicles, etc. I will now concentrate on your 3rd step at little more! We trained using your 1st two steps! I am still learning much about this sport and I thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge, and really enjoy your blogs, webinars and FB posts.
Thank you for sharing! I had two dogs enrolled in the FDSA Nosework 101 class and looking forward to the next session of classes. I’ve gotten in the habit of marking when the dog is right at source (accessible hides only right now). It is ok then for the dog to be a few inches from the hide? Does that just depend on where the odor settles?
Hi Nicki! Hold off on these exercises a bit… these emphasize some more advanced concepts. Instead, keep working on Interiors and we will do a basic version of some of these concepts in NW120 in April 🙂
You are so generous with your gift of training nose/scent work. Thank you!
thank you so much for having this blog. With all the trial cancellations, nosework class cancellations, and finally the NACSW spring nosework camp, it’s hard to come up with ideas. You’ve come up with some ideas, for which I thank you very much. You’re a gem!
Glad you are enjoying the blog series! Stay well!!
focus on marking when the dog reaches source. the indication will come later
I am wondering about this. My dogs to get close to source but if I clicked when they reach source I think they would start to indicate farther and farther away and/or give me their final indication as soon as they are in the vicinity. How would I prevent that?
Hi Jan… Try a verbal marker rather than a clicker… I only use a click for pin-pointing and ONLY occasionally… Clickers can encourage the dog to focus on a behavior. So they are great for building duration behaviors. I sometimes use them to create a temporary nose freeze when I’m trying to clean up a dog’s natural indication, but then I quickly move away from it.
In general, until the dog truly understands sourcing, I mark right BEFORE the final response happens. When they understand sourcing, I will mark AFTER the final response. If the dog is currently fringing, then the dog doesn’t understanding sourcing… so I would mark BEFORE the final response (assuming that the final response occurs after taking the muzzle off of source). Hope this makes sense!
Thanks for the clarification. I was not very good at reading my dog’s indication so went to a final response that the dog offered naturally but sometimes it takes a bit for them to actually remember to turn their head to look at me so we lose time. Both dog’s are better now.
What I’m trying to work on now is not always giving the yes so they get used to either staying at source or immediately returning if I miss their indication.
One of my dogs thinks if I don’t give a marker right away then I must not want that hide. He is the least experienced.
Perhaps that would be a topic of a blog
I have a 7 year old rescued GSD (Loki) that we’ve had for 3 years. I spent the first 2 years working through behaviors and for the last year we started doing nosework. I have watched several of you webinars, read tons of materials and we are in classes for nose work. We are learning this game as a team. Sometimes, he is so excited about it, while other times seems disinterested. Our nosework instructor told me I need to work on his sourcing drive, so I tried your electrical box exercise. He was excited about it for 3-4 tries, then I had to keep bringing him back because the garage seemed more interesting to him. When he is interested, I have been told he really “gets” how to search, but I’m the one who hasn’t figured out his signals yet (he’s a bit inconsistent). How can I build his drive to the source or is it common for dogs to be disinterested at times? I want to keep this fun for him because it really has helped his reactive tendencies. Thank you for these tools!!!
I need to also add that he has VERY high drive for balls and toys.
The electrical box game is meant to be short-term… I might try the Weird Hide game… OR… instead of tossing a cookie after you mark him, toss his ball! (since you mention that he has high ball drive)
EXACTLY what I needed to know so Team Fenway can get back on track and keep Nosework joyful!