Storing your scent properly is important to your success in nosework. You always want to know where odor is, and where it isn’t. Here are some key tips.
One of the first things you’ll notice is the importance of labelling everything. Always label cold boxes and mark the odor on all containers with scent. For example, I use a marker to write “BAC” on items holding Birch/Anise/Clove, and write “E” or “cold” on scent-free items.
Don’t forget to always keep cold (scent-free) objects separate from hot boxes and scent, ideally in separate rooms or locations. Once you use a box as a hot box, it can never be a cold box later.
When you’re preparing hides, be careful to work in a room where dogs don’t go. You may find that opening the window helps ventilate the room more quickly.
Another key consideration is to store your essential oils out of the sun, ideally in dark glass containers (as some plastics may interact with the oils over time). I keep my odors in glass Mason jars for canning, inside a large fishing tackle box in a room where dogs are never allowed to enter. These jars are airtight with a tin top, so should have minimal interaction with the oils inside.
You should also keep your oils away from high heat. For example, don’t leave hides inside your vehicle in sunny, hot weather, where it can get quite hot, bake the odor, and may leave a persistent target odor smell in your vehicle, especially if your jars weren’t sealed tightly enough.
Your sense of smell is important to quality assurance. Whenever you open a container labelled as birch, that you should be able to smell it. If you can’t smell it, it’s probably not strong enough for training, and should be either refreshed or disposed of and replaced. And if it smells unusual to you, something is probably very off and you should start over rather than confusing your dog. Similarly, if you open a room that is supposed to hold only cold containers, if you smell Birch, then you probably made a mistake and your boxes are contaminated with odor.
When I’m getting ready to train, I move a few hides into a pelican case for transport in my car. My favorite bag is a Shoe Bag with a drawstring, since Shoe Bags are designed for holding wet and dirty running shoes and they keep things tidy and don’t leak. The bag goes on the passenger seat, so I can keep my eye on it and the dogs are less likely to dig at or play with it.
On the other hand, we have tested storing oils in subzero unheated storage in the Canadian winter. Dogs definitely continue to recognize the odor, although it can change the consistency/texture and make the oil harder to manipulate. As a worst case scenario, if the oil is clumping, you can use a toothpick to transfer it.
Finally, any garbage you generate in making hides or training, such as toothpicks, adhesive backing of sticky envelopes or disposable gloves, should be put in a labelled bag and carefully disposed with garbage in an area which dogs cannot access.