figure showing how to navigate vehicle search using wind

Why Wind Matters in Nosework


Wind is complicated, but it’s important to succeeding in scent detection. Depending on wind direction, you may need to check all sides of a vehicle (or any object) to avoid calling a false alert.

When you’re beginning to learn nosework with container searches indoors, you could just follow your dog and pass without ever worrying about wind. But wind is almost always present outdoors. So once you progress to blind searches of exteriors and vehicles outdoors under a time limit, understanding the wind becomes crucial.

For example, wind usually matters during vehicle searches. Consider the search in this picture. The compass shows the wind direction (coming from the Northeast and blowing towards the Southwest) and the X shows the location of the hide.  You follow your dog when he takes the blue path on the left side. He is clearly smelling odor, and he strains and pulls enthusiastically. If you call the Alert then, it’s a false alert and you will not pass.

To pass, you need to recognize the wind direction can be blowing scent under the car! In nosework, you need to restrain your dog from crawling under the vehicle (which would be faulted as unsafe). You can ask your dog to check the opposite side of the vehicle. Once you bring the dog around to the other side, he can indicate strongly with confidence at the X, and you can call the alert correctly (as shown on the right side).

In UKC Novice Nosework, all 3 vehicles must face the same direction and you only search the front bumper, which is relatively easy. In Advanced, vehicles may face any orientation and hides are on any side of the vehicles. The more vehicles there are, and the more chaotic the wind changes, the more complicated the search will be. Under time pressure (e.g. you must search 3 vehicles in 3 minutes), you and your dog may feel confused if you are not fully prepared.

Understanding the wind is the first step in solving this advanced type of scent detection puzzle with wind. Once you understand why wind matters in nosework, then it’s easier to train your canine partner. You can make a plan and gradually set up more difficult searches to challenge your dog without sacrificing motivation and fun. We’ll show you how.

Click here for video of an advanced vehicle search with moderate wind (
Read more about windy vehicle searches. 

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