Sourcing, Residual Odor and Preventing False Alerts FAQ – Part 2

In Part 1, I explained why your dog should be working to source in every search i.e. getting his nose as close as physically possible to the highest concentration of odor. Hopefully you took the sourcing tests and videoed yourself. In today’s blog, you’ll observe students working through sourcing exercises at class.


0:2 The first segment shows Rizzi warming up on one hot box. for the vast majority of teams, you need to take the time to acclimate to the environment, then warm up. Very few dogs perform their best without a warmup, so don’t rush. When you have some success and you are ready with treats in hand, then you can begin searching.

0:13 Then we start in the scent detection lab, where there’s a stack of boxes. The holes are about 1 inch apart. In the last dog’s search (before the video), the hide was inside the plastic drawer. When the box is taken out of the drawer and moved into the stack (it’s the 3rd box from the ground), residual remains and causes a false alert at the drawer. Then Rizzi works to source. This is an important learning experience, so we repeat.

0:35 When we move the box down one position, Rizzi uses spatial memory at first to return to the previous location, where residual remains. Then she works to source one box lower. Lori pays handsomely, at source.

1:11 We move to a different room where crated puppies are distractions, which Rizzi ignores as she focuses on odor. This type of distraction won’t usually be a part of nosework tests or competitions, but for many dogs it can be helpful to work through a variety of safe distractions to generalize the behaviors we want. We haven’t moved the hot box around in this room, so residual is not as much an issue. But odor converges, when the scent plume from the high hide at top left falls down to intersect with the low hide on the ground at far right. Rizzi finds both hides, working to source.

2:19 In the room with the green wall and flags, larger spaces between objects makes it easier to distinguish source. Rizzi sources the spine of the folder well.

3:20 The final search features a set of mesh cups. Air flows freely (compared to a solid walled box), so mesh containers can help dogs to learn sourcing. Rizzi fringe alerts on the second last cup. (Note since other dogs shifted and knocked over the cups, residual is also present.) Then she works to source at the last cup and sits to indicate.

Rizzi clearly recognizes odor. But she doesn’t seem confident about sourcing precisely around residual odor, yet. With more repetitions, her precision and confidence should increase as Lori continues to mark on time for finding source and place rewards at source.


This video features Olive, who has a clearer understanding of sourcing at the time of the video.

0:02 In the scent detection lab, the hot item has been moved repeatedly, leaving residual odors throughout the room. Olive must not only detect odor (close isn’t close enough), but work it back to source, the highest concentration of odor at the current time. She avoids false alerting on residual odor, demonstrating confidence and precision sourcing. This is a fairly challenging search for her. But she’s a fast worker and she gets to source at 0:15. She demonstrates good commitment to odor, staying at source until Lori delivers her reward there.

0:17 Olive searches varied objects. (Source remains in the same location as it was for Rizzi, allowing you to compare.) We don’t just want to know that source is that blue folder. The hide is secured inside the spine, and Olive’s nose goes to the back left corner at 0:25.

0:38 Olive searches the cups, going directly to source at the last grey cup.


Thanks Lori, for giving us the opportunity to train your lovely Labs and share your progress! Your reward timing and placement set a solid example.

I hope watching these demos helps you to understand sourcing, and compare what your dog did in the sourcing tests with the ideal performance, so you can create a plan to progress.

Keep it fun! Don’t drill. Just a few short, perfect searches will build your drive, and your skills, without taking a hit in motivation. Indications are not as important as obedience to odor, so focus on rewarding your dog for getting to source until it becomes easy. Sourcing may seem confusing at first, but the more you practice with consistent criteria, making when your dog reaches source and rewarding at source, the clearer your dog’s understanding will become. You will build your skills, make it easier to read your dog, and gel as a team.

In Part 3, we’ll show you some more advanced sourcing exercises. Questions are always welcome.

Media by Hunter’s Heart. 

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