Cueing for Nose Work


My husband and I recently had a discussion on cueing for Nose Work (check out NACSW for more information).

The setup:
Copper’s cue is “Nose Work”, at which point he flies into the pile/area and starts searching.  If it’s an exterior he may be a bit more tentative, but on containers, interiors and vehicles he seems to understand it pretty well.  Copper arrives on the scene motivated, more often than not with a tight leash, raring to go and cross the start line. The cue “Nose Work” sparks an instant release from a stationary stand behavior.

Penny’s cue is “Go”…Or is it?

If I stand still and say “Go” or “Penny Go” she may or may not leave my side.  If I say either of those words AND move forward she will proceed to work the pile.  When Penny normally arrives at the start line she’s pretty sedate, intent and curious, but controlled.

What is her “Go to work” cue?  Is it the verbal, the visual or the combination of both?  If it is the combination, should we be working towards something similar to Copper’s behavior where the cue sparks an instance release from the stand stay?  They are different dogs, with different work ethics and styles. Is it wrong to expect her to move forward, out, away from me with the verbal cue alone?

I find myself thinking about a discussion I had with my mentor on what the cue for “Heel” was.  Is it the verbal cue that spurs forward motion? Is it the physical cue of me taking off with my left foot, specifically? Or could it be the use of a specific hand gesture? Could it be a combination of these? Should we be working towards independence of one from the other?

Yes, I realize, I have a lot of questions. But, I ask these questions to make us think and consider how clear or unclear our cues may be to our dogs. Nose work requires a dog to work independently of the handler. Truly, the handler is just the ‘dope at the end of the rope.’ Therefore, a dog must be ready to think independently at the very moment the cue is uttered. It should not depend on my forward motion for the dog to realize that the game is afoot.

I’d love your feedback, thoughts and ideas to add to the discussion.

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