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
The Hunter’s Heart nosework kit in the photo is the fastest and most convenient way to purchase hides, since it already contains pre-scented blotting papers with cocktail, color coded scented cotton swabs, essential oils, and various 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 without contamination. Just select the odor and container you want to train with and find a good place to hide it. Between blotting paper and swabs, these 140 pre-scented pieces will last months, and when you run out, you have the essential oils to make more from scratch. Kits are available at: http://store.huntersheart.com/Nosework_Scent_Kit_UKC_p/nku.htm
The target odor we use most often is 1 drop of each of Birch & Anise & Clove essential oils dropped separately onto a piece of artist’s blotting paper. These odors are generally used by Sniff Alberta and the United Kennel Club. So to ease the transition from lessons in our lab to practising at home, ideally you should continue to use Birch/Anise/Clove cocktail. 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.
If you want to spend less on hides, you can purchase pre-scented blotting paper (100 pieces come pre-scented with Birch/Anise/Clove cocktail), and either a ventilated tin for your hide container or 100 sticky envelopes which adhere strongly to most surfaces. Hunter’s Heart sells these in packs of 100, some of which can be reused if they don’t get too messy. And if you find you want the essential oils later, you can purchase them at that time.
Hunter’s Heart essential oils come in a glass container with a handy orifice reducer that dispenses 1 drop of oil at a time. If you purchase oils elsewhere, look for 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.
In addition to the supplies on our website, disposable gloves are also helpful. 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.
I purchase my blotting paper in large sheets from an art supply store for approx. $12/sheet, then use scissors to cut it into small strips, and add target odor(s). Blotting 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. Having said that, Band-aids do work nicely for cocktailed hides in a pinch, and they come with an adhesive that sticks well to many surfaces.
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!