One of the most attractive things about the sport is the broad canine population that can participate. Essentially, if your dog has a nose, he can play this game. While certified search and rescue and detection dogs have very demanding jobs, K9 Nose Work® does not place the same sort of physical demands on dogs or handlers. While the sport does borrow from detection skills training, it does not demand the same physical and mental stamina and endurance required of detection dogs for long, difficult searches. Neither are handlers presented with the same levels of liability and pressure. Many companion dogs and sport dogs share the same sniffing skills of a detection dog, but are not really suited to that life. K9 nose work allows the handler to tap into those skills to provide a great outlet for the dog’s natural abilities.
The sport requires a human team member who enjoys the simple pleasures of seeing his/her dog have a good time. The most challenging task for the handler is to learn to give up “control” of the dog and learn to read what the dog is telling the handler with his behavior.
Very minimal equipment and supplies are needed to get started in K9 nose work. You’ll need rewards—toys or treats—and a number of cardboard boxes to start.
Owners of fearful, shy, and reactive dogs sometimes find nose work classes are a great opportunity to take their dogs to a class. This is because one dog is worked at a time. This allows the dog to concentrate on the task rather than often overwhelming environmental factors. Dogs as young as six months are eligible to compete in K9 Nose Work® events.
The following are titling levels as of January 2016:
NW1 – Dogs earn points for four different element searches at one trial site on one day within maximum time limits for the birch odor.
- A container search—a number of cardboard boxes—done on leash
- An interior search—a room in the interior of a building—done on or off leash.
- An exterior search—an outdoor area—done on leash, as a rule.
- A vehicle search—the exteriors of up to three parked vehicles—done on leash.
These four searches—containers, interior, exterior, and vehicles—are referred to as elements and are all always included in searches at each of the titling levels.
NW2 – At this level dogs will search for birch and anise ordors. Distractors such as food and/or toys are added. Multiple interior searches are included. While the same four elements as NW1 are included, search areas are more complex, and searches require greater skill from both dog and handler.
NW3 – At this level dogs search for birch, anise, and clove odors. Multiple distractors may be used. One of the three rooms searched in a building can be clear of odor (a decoy, so to speak). The vehicle search includes five vehicles, and the trial locations are even larger and more complex. When a dog has been successful at NW3 three times, the NW3 Elite title is awarded.
NW3 Elite – When a team had been successful at NW3 three times, the Elite title is awarded.
ELT – Elite Division – More complex searches await competing teams at the Elite level. Teams are awarded points for their searches and titles earned when the required point levels are reached.
Across the United States to date, 89 Portuguese Water dogs have earned NW1 titles; 45 have earned NW2 titles; 29 have earned NW3 titles; 5 have earned NW3 Elite; 2 have earned the Elite Division1 title; and 1 has earned Elite Division 2 status.