Photo of a hide under a vacuum, by Furever Reflections

K9 ABC Games – Adventures in Nosework

(Adopted from an article featured in American Brittany Magazine, 2016)

I recently had the pleasure to attend the K9 ABC Games nosework event hosted by Kinetic Dog Training, in Calgary, Canada with my two Brittanys. What a blast!

Founded in Washington state, K9 ABC Games nosework keeps the emphasis on games. While legs and titles are earned, there are no placements or rankings, so many handlers felt less anxious than other nosework venues. Every team has the opportunity to succeed and the relaxed atmosphere allows teams to test their skills, while enjoying realistic search situations.

It’s thrilling to see the sport of canine nosework growing. For those readers who are unfamiliar, Nosework is an exciting new sport that uses similar techniques to those employed to teach dogs to detect narcotics or explosives. It’s a race to find a legal substance that’s hidden by the judge. Once the dog finds each hidden odor, he must show the handler where it is, within a few inches, so the handler can call “alert” within the allotted time. Capitalizing on dogs’ natural scenting abilities, nosework offers both mental and physical exercise, even for dogs with physical limitations which prevent them from participating in other sports. Mixed breed and rescue dogs are all welcome to play.

There are several different organizations offering nosework of various flavors across North America. K9 ABC Games is unique. It affords each team the chance to perform a series of continuous searches, exploring containers, vehicles, interior and exterior hides, in any order. There is no separation between rooms or events, and time continues to run while handlers are encouraged to reward their dog’s successes throughout, using food or toys. Boxes may be outside. Vehicles can include anything with wheels, from plastic kids play cars or wheeled trolleys to transport trucks inside buildings. Teams never know what to expect and each search presents an exciting new puzzle to solve.

The games I attended were judged by K9 ABC Games Founder and CNWI nosework instructor, Alecia Elvstad. With years of experience and an evident passion for teaching, her sense of humor showed in her hides. For example, one search featured odor hidden in a vending machine where the can of soda usually appears. While one hide was inside a backpack, another was behind a baseboard. Every hide was unpredictable and spectators were fascinated watching the performances of the dog handler teams.

At the least complicated, Single Odor level, only one odor was hidden, in four different places, encompassing Containers, Vehicles, Interior, and Exterior, in any order. Each team had 6 minutes to find them all. If an inexperienced teams succeeded in finding the hidden odor in the container, but couldn’t find the others, they still received credit for the container portion. Upon conclusion, Ms. Elvstad offered informal comments, noticed what teams did well and made suggestions on how they could improve. Many teams were pleasantly surprised at their improvement over the course of the weekend. All were more confident and proficient at the conclusion.

Unlike some other organizations, dogs didn’t need to pass an odor recognition test first in order to participate fully. In fact, in K9 ABC Games you can choose the level which you enter: either start at the bottom and work your way up comfortably as you gain experience, or start at the highest level if you’re ready for the ultimate challenge.

At the highest, Triple Odor level, Ms. Elvstad hid anywhere between 7 and 10 hides, and she did not tell handlers how many were present. She arranged the searches at a dog boarding facility so that all 10 minutes could be safely conducted off leash. The retail section featured enticing displays of dog training rewards. My Brittany completed his Triple Odor title by correctly finding one hidden scent on a fuzzy bird toy, then carrying that scented toy around proudly until he found and indicated the hides in the remaining rooms.

We thoroughly enjoyed playing K9 ABC Games and look forward to participating again when it’s available near us. If you enjoy nosework, you too may find K9 ABC Games a welcome new adventure.

For more information, visit K9 ABC Games:


2 thoughts on “K9 ABC Games – Adventures in Nosework”

  1. Pingback: How to Train a Dog to Find Ambergris – BabelBark

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment Jordan, Detecting ambergris must be fascinating, but I wonder about the permit process due to prohibitions on collecting ambergris due to endangered status?

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