News for the New Year!

The holidays are approaching and 2017 will be here before we know it. Are you making plans for 2017? We are!

This Winter we are excited to be offering several more classes in our popular K9 Nose Work series!

Hop on over to our K9 Nose Work Class page to get the details and register for the classes starting in January!

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

October class schedule and ORT pics!

20160924_130620Hard to believe we’re almost into October! Our fall classes that start in the middle and late parts of October are now open for registration. Check out the updates to our website and the class registration page. We’re hoping the new format will help you find the specific classes that are best for your team with a little more ease!

Also, hop over to check out some of the photos from our ORT event that was held in Bloomington on September 24th. It was a fantastic event and thrilling to see so many Kudos teams testing and passing that day! We’ll continue to bring great events like these to the area as we’re able, if you have a specific event you’d like to see, feel welcome to send us a note to let us know via our contact page!

Gearing up for a busy Fall!

trick-672629_1920This last few months has been a whirlwind of time spent training, learning and teaching. Now, we’re staring right at our full lineup of Fall classes and they’ll be here before we know it!

Check out our Class Line up and get registered for one of our August sessions: Continuing K9 Nose Work (8/14), Competition K9 Nose Work ROAD TRIP (8/4), Competition K9 Nose Work (8/14) and Competition Containers in K9 Nose Work (8/14). These classes run for 6 weeks and cost $110. Please make special note of the registration deadlines for each of these classes! 

Attention ORT event participants! We’ve just added an ORT Refresher Course designed to help your team prepare for testing at our event on September 24th. This class is a mini format, running for 3 weeks at a cost of $60!

Registrations for the ORT testing event are filling up quickly but we will continue to accept registrations online and snail mail until 90 spots are filled or on September 9th at noon (whichever comes first)!

All classes will be held at Positive Training (with the exception of ROAD TRIP classes) located at 1103 Martin Luther King Dr, Bloomington, Illinois.

As always, if you have any questions about our class line ups, now, or in the future, please contact us!

The sky is falling!

If you’ve ever been a fan of All Creatures Great and Small, then you’re probably familiar with the very unscientific term ‘crackerdog’.  That’s the only term that seems appropriate to describe how my 10 year old, Copper, was behaving last night.  He would stand at the baby gate barking, we’d ask him to quiet down…He’d stop for 5 seconds and go back to barking.  We tried to sit down on the couch with him…No go.  Tried moving him to a different room…Barking continued.  My husband and I had a heated discussion on whether he’d fed the dogs (this was later confirmed by a Kong count in the freezer).  We let Copper out to potty multiple times and NOTHING seemed to stop the behavior. 

Then, by a stroke of luck, I was standing in an area of the house and heard this very quiet, high pitched whining.  We looked around the house, outside the house and finally determined that a smoke alarm battery was dying…A very slow and, according to Copper, a very painful death.  So, replace the battery and wait.  Finally, after several minutes, Copper was reassured that the sky wasn’t actually falling (Malinois’ are sure that the sky falls at least several times a day) and he settled down to eat the bully stick that we’d offered while attempting to calm down behavior that we had assumed was BMS (BMS =Bored Malinois Syndrome).

All became quiet in the house.  Both dogs were happy with their respective bully sticks and there was calm once more.  I should add that Penny hadn’t given two hoots about the dying smoke alarm, but those kinds of things have never bothered her.

And then I was an idiot.  I was on the couch, Facebooking, clicked on one of those ‘must watch’ videos and suddenly a smoke alarm beep starting issuing forth from my phone!  The Sky Was Now Most Definitely FALLING!!!  Copper was up like a jackrabbit, I’m pressing the back button faster than you’d believe, but the damage was already done.  He came up to me and starting crawling into my lap (no mean feat for a 65lb, 25in dog!), so I pulled him the rest of the way up and just held him until his body started relaxing.  And I held him, and he was happy that his Mommy was there to protect him from the evil, treacherous sky.  And then all was right again with the world.  He finished his bully stick and I stayed away from random links on Facebook.

Continue reading

Equipment as Cues

In Nose Work ( the only equipment that you are not allowed to use during a search is aversion based equipment (i.e. shock/prong/choke collars). This means that there is a whole HOST of equipment that you ARE allowed to use.  In furtherance of this understanding, it also means that you can dedicate one or more pieces of equipment that your dog will wear while they doing Nose Work and only wear while they are doing nose work.  My choice is a specific type of harness, unlike their walking, tracking or agility harness.

Why do I choose a specific piece of equipment for the dog to wear while doing searches?

Well, here’s my theory.  Anything we can do create a clearer picture for the dog (specific to the task we are about to assign it) will help with the outcome.  We, and our dogs, are creatures of habit and ritual.

Here’s an example: At what point in the morning does your dog know that you are leaving?  Is it when you shower, put your shoes on or grab your keys?  Your dog knows that you are leaving because of a complex set of cues (rituals) that are provided in the environment.

Let’s look at the Nose Work ritual:

  1. Dog in crate travels to location
  1. Human has treats on person
  1. Human puts task specific equipment on dog
  1. Human takes dog to specific location
  1. Dog sees familiar boxes in location (practice boxes are available for use prior to running your dog)
  1. Human presents verbal/visual cue

If we have strong rituals, then it stands to reason that our dogs will be more proficient in their understanding when we generalize the environment more and more.  Nose Work is ALL about generalization.  If you do not take time to first build a VERY strong foundation and then take this training on the road, your dog will not be successful.  When you’re on the road generalizing the behavior you have very little control over your environment.  The only thing that you have control over IS your rituals.

Are these rituals necessary for every dog?

In one word: No.  I am reasonably confident that my dogs will do the search (at this stage of their training, with a VERY thorough foundation) without the rituals, but when I’m on the road these rituals will help the search behavior be more robust.  It will shore up weaknesses that occur and help the dog (and myself!) when a curve ball is thrown our way.

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.

Watch our Class page for upcoming offerings!

In just a few days we will be starting our Scent Games classes. The sign up has ended and we are completely full for this session. Did you miss your chance to sign up? Don’t worry we’ll definitely be putting together more classes soon so keep an eye on our class page as details become available.

We are currently working on the next class series, a vehicles specialty nose work class. As soon as the details are finalized we’ll post a class announcement!

Don’t forget, I am also available to work one-on-one with your family and pet. Have a specific question or need? Use our contact form to send me some detail and we’ll set up a time to talk further!

Subscribe to the Kudos for Canines blog and you’ll stay “in the know” about all of our upcoming classes, handy tips and great advice! 

Why I like Canine Nose Work (a Husband’s Perspective) – Part 3

dog in boxGetting started in Nose Work is not an expensive endeavor. Get a cardboard box.  That’s right, just one.  Put a treat (or, a toy, if your dog is that kind of dog, or if you are that kind of trainer) in it, while your dog is watching.  Put it on the floor, and let your dog go and get it.  Repeat.  Move the box a little farther away.  Repeat.  Add another box, with no cookie / toy / whatever.  Repeat.  Add another one.

Aaaaaaaand, you’re off!  Think up a cue word.  Really difficult stuff, this…

Your little beastie will pick up on discriminating a “hot” box (one with the scent), from a “cold” one (has no scent, or has a “distractor” scent, at higher levels of competition) , in no time at all – they are hunting, so this is hard-wired.

If you are not a competitor, yourself, you are actually in luck – it can be harder for people who are involved in other dog-sports to learn to “back off, and shut up”, and let their dog “do its thing” (having said this, you don’t want to “back off” TOO far, and you shouldn’t refrain from opening your mouth, if success in the iteration depends on it!).

In other dog-sports, you want your dog “checking back in with you” – the “partnership” is more heavily weighted towards the handler.  In Nose Work, the dog is in the driver’s seat, for the most part – the partnership is more heavily weighted towards the dog, and what it is doing, all by itself.

This is not one of those times where you are looking for that doe-eyed look of adoration, from your dog – you want your dog to be in full-blown Airborne Ranger mode, looking for the small woodland being, to gobble it down like the Wolf out of Little Red Riding Hood.

Well, OK, maybe that’s just me…

The point I am trying to make, here, is that your dog likes to hunt – you may have noticed that your dog “likes” to run agility (because your dog probably really DOES like to run, and maybe it likes to jump around, too), or that it “likes” to go into the obedience / rally ring (because it has been paid to do so, in one way, or another).

All dogs like to hunt – they don’t have to be “taught” that it is rewarding, they don’t have to be encouraged to use that huge apparatus at the end of their face (what we refer to as a “nose”).  This is something they are hard-wired to do, and they only need the least amount of guidance, from us, in order to be able to play this particular game, and to succeed at it, and to really, really enjoy it.

You may end up finding yourself  sitting back and watching an otherwise “spooked out” dog come right out of his / her little “shell”, when they are given the opportunity to go out and just BE A DOG.  I have seen it happen, and if you spend only a little time with this sport, I’d be shocked if you don’t see it happen, too (it might not be your dog, — or, maybe it will be?).

It’s a beautiful thing.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  See it happen, once, and then tell me that you’re not interested in letting your dog have a try at it.

If you do, however, I might just have the Men in White on my speed-dial, and you might have some ‘splaining to do…

Why I like Canine Nose Work (a Husband’s Perspective) – Part 2

This is part 2 of a 3 part series. If you need to catch up you can go back to post 1 here! 

Nose Work is not full of artificial rules, like “your dog must be on this side, or the other”, or “your dog’s feet must be within the colored zone”, or “you can’t be closer than / farther away than this line I just chalked out on the floor”.  There aren’t any strangers who are going to fondle the dog, or any requirements that “you must sit, here”, or “you must stand in this way”.  In Nose Work, your dog’s only job is to hunt.

OK, so there are some artificial aspects to it:

  • How many dogs would naturally choose to “hunt” the scent of Birch oil (or, explosives, or gunpowder, or narcotics, or dead folks, or whatever)? Not too many.
  • No one has to “hunt” a hot dog, either – so, one could argue that this is “artificial”, and I couldn’t really deny that.

There is something else, too – the dog I primarily “run”, Penny, is a killer.  She has taken down squirrels and rabbits, in the back yard.  Her “hunting” mechanic, in the case of live prey, is to charge in at about seven meters per second, snatch the prey by the neck, and break that neck – then, she goes into “prance around the yard / take the victory lap” mode.  She does not do this, when playing Nose Work.

What happens in Nose Work approximates, very closely, what Penny does when she is “crittering” – when she smells a critter under the shed, for instance, and is looking for the avenue of approach that will lead her to the kill.  So, although I acknowledge that there may be some artificial aspects to “the game”, Penny is doing what comes naturally to her.  She is a predator. She is predating. My presence is sort of incidental, aside from helping Penny realize what game we are playing – she does know that I am the Cookie Monkey, that when she has successfully located the scent, I will do the Monkey Chatter thing (called, “Alert”, which she doesn’t really understand), and then I will reward her at the source location, with treats of some kind (for us, it’s almost always beef hot dogs).

What is it, about Nose Work, that pulled me off the spectators’ bench, and has me heading towards the competition ring, when no other doggy-related sport has ever done that, in the past?

A huge part of it is the fact that I don’t feel like I’m asking my dog to do anything that is absolutely goofy, in my mind.  I don’t care about having my dog prance around on a “dog walk”, or whether he or she can rocket through a tunnel, or jump over a very specific sequence of jumps – I admit that the training behind these tasks is formidable, and I see the benefits of building that degree of trust and teamwork between the species involved, but I just don’t care about doing it, myself.  I think it is goofy.  That’s about all there is, to it.

I DO realize that I am being short-sighted, in saying this – I know that all of this “artificial” dog-sport training will make a dog far more confident, “in the field”, when confronted with weird obstacles presenting themselves along the scent path (fences, culverts, debris, etc.).  I also recognize that the other dog-sports help the dog develop those “problem solving skills” that they lost, way back when, when dogs became “domesticated”.  A host of foundational training skills (like, the ability to cue a “drop”, or a “stay / wait”, or a “recall”) can be real life-saving talents, if you are operating in an otherwise unsafe environment.   If you ARE working with explosives, you’d BETTER have a very reliable “Leave It”, for example.

I am extremely fortunate – this aversion to participating, directly, in these other sports has been reinforced, because my spouse is training all the talents that I might see as “extraneous”, or “secondary”.  I get the best of all the available worlds, and all I have to do is be the Cookie Monkey.  This is totally unfair, and I realize it – still, it might be the payoff for all those years of being the “Kennel Biscuit”…?

Part 3 in this series will be published tomorrow! Subscribe to our blog now if you’d like to receive updates directly to your inbox!