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Sport Detection

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

Sport Detection refers to a dog searching for a particular odor. Nosework, Scentwork, Scent Detection, and more are all under the umbrella of Sport Detection. It is meant to mimic drug and explosive detection work done in the real world, but in an accessible home format.  I began my scent detection training with Anubi very informally. My manager was in the process of getting certified to become a Nosework instructor and was holding a mock class. I brought Anubi the first day having zero foundation. He snuck his nose in boxes and found treats and thought it was amazing.

As class went on the instructor started making the boxes more difficult to get into and/or more difficult to access. She varied elevation, his things in corners where the office would get more trapped, and sometimes his boxes right next to the entrance to really make the dog search. As one of my instructors once said, when we hide our food/odor for the dogs to find, often we think of a difficult hide as one that is the farthest away. Often though it's the hide right inside the doorway or boundary that is the hardest.

By the time I finished class, I was hooked. I have a anaphylactic pine nut allergy, so I decided to play with teaching Anubi to detect pine nuts. In the beginning I just readded for sniffing the odor and pairing it with food. Then I began to hide the odor and he got to search it out. We worked on various mediums (nuts, oil, pesto). We continued to advance until we got to the point where I couldn't handle the odor anymore (I already had to wear gloves and a mask), and haven't done much since I need such specific help.

That training developed into training for Birch, the first odor in both AKC Scentwork and Nosework. When I took my manager's second Nosework class Anubi had advanced well beyond the class level and was ready to trial.

Each sport detection venue has wildly different rules and various elements (settings) where dogs search for odor. We decided to stick with AKC, though the sport was still very new there. Within AKC the elements are: container, interior, exterior, buried, and handler discrimination. In container the dog searchers through an enclosed box/object. At the novice level this is always ten boxes, at upper levels it can be suitcases or really anything. Interior searches a dog searches a room (varying in size) while exterior is a search through a set outside setting. Buried is like a container search in that at novice levels the dog searches open containers filled with dirt for the buried scent. At advanced levels the odor is actually buried in the ground. The buried search is supposed to mimic a Cadaver Dog's search. Handler Discrimination is a bit of a different element. In the other elements at the novice level the dog is searching for Birch with other odors being added with each level. With Handler Discrimination the dog is looking for your scent (more similar to tracking).

Anubi and I slowly worked through each element. It wasn't our main sport. We just dabbled when we had time or the weather was rotten and we couldn't be outside. Over time Anubi became the first dog to earn his Novice Container and Interior titles and we're presently working toward his Exterior and Buried titles. Amidi is going to try her hand at Container in a few months time.

All this dabbling in scentwork has led me to formalize my reasoning and now I even teach Scentwork classes to owners as a fun wintertime activity.

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