Once your dog is trained to search for odor, you’ll need to acquire some hides in order to practice nosework at home. (A “hide” is the package of target odor inside a ventilated container that is hidden in the search are for the dog to find e.g. a piece of blotting paper with Birch/Anise/Clove cocktailed scent inside a metal tin or in a sticky envelope.)
Hides and Scent
We’re sorry Hunter’s Heart has discontinued sales of kits and scent detection supplies. But the instructions below can help you to create your own nosework kit. Download our scent detection kit instructions jan19 (PDF Handout).
The first step in imprinting is getting the target odor(s) you want your dog to detect.
Whenever you handle any kit contents, you need to wear disposable gloves. They’re cheap and readily available from Coop Home Healthcare, London drugs, or look for nitrile gloves at Princess Auto, Home Depot or car repair shops.
In our classes, I use pre-scented blotting papers with cocktail, prescented cotton swabs, essential oils, and hide containers, including a ventilated metal tin with magnets and tweezers (plus flat black tubes and clear microcentrifuge tubes), all in an airtight protective case for transporting to minimize cross-contamination.
Beginners can teach several odors efficiently at the same time. Start by putting on gloves and removing a piece of prescented paper with a cocktail of all target odors. This is what we use in most of our classes. Having said that, when presented with Birch alone, most dogs we train will recognize that odor as well, even if they are mildly surprised the first time you use it.
Look for essential oils come in a glass container with a handy orifice reducer that dispenses 1 drop of oil at a time. You need 100% pure and undiluted essential oil of the correct species of plant, and ensure that objects that touch any other scent should never be inserted into your oil container or they will permanently contaminate the odor. Don’t forget that mixing odors into a soup causes a chemical reaction, and produces unpredictable products that will complicate your training experience.
For the strongest freeze indication, we recommend placing hides in cardboard boxes with a 2.5 inch hole cut into the side where the dog can put his nose to get as close to source as possible, like you practice in our lab. You can substitute any reasonably clean boxes and cut the holes yourself.
You may want to consider purchasing a long nosework leash, ideally from 10-15 feet, which allows your dog to surge ahead and independently find odor. Leashes without a handler are best, as they are less likely to snag on obstacles in the environment. Biothane is the ultimate material. It’s easily gripped even when wet, and unlike nylon, it won’t hurt your hands when it slides through your hands. Biothane pulls thousands of pounds in testing, so your arm would give out long before the leash does. It also resists scent and moisture, and when it gets dirty you can just hose it off.
I purchase my lab paper in large sheets, then use scissors to cut it into small strips, and add target odor(s). Lab paper absorbs and holds a fair amount of liquid efficiently. While cotton swabs are good for single odors, they are so small that they’re less amenable to the single separate drops required to make a cocktailed hide.
Learn more about do it yourself devices and setups for scent detection.
With target odor and hides alone, you can have fun setting up daily challenges for your dog in diverse environments around the house and on the road. And if you’re like most nosework enthusiasts, you may find yourself evaluating every gift and object that enters your house for its potential use in nosework training. Inspiring photos are always welcome!