May 12th Nose Work Trial Photos

One of the rules at a Nose Work trial is that no one besides the Official Photographers are allowed to take pictures.  While disappointed, not a single photo was snapped until we exited Camp Carlquist. We didn’t want to take any chances of tarnishing Pongo’s Nose Work Trial–a few photos were just not worth it.

After much anticipation, trial photos were finally posted.  With permission from the National Association of Canine Scent Work and our two fabulous photographers Mike Lewis and Donna Quante (©2012HuskyProductions/Donna Quante), I am able to post pictures of Pongo’s Nose Work trial experience.

Vehicle Search (0:47.30)

Coming into the vehicle search area.

Pongo got “lost” for a moment and forgot where he was suppose to be searching.

Now we’re on track.

Almost there…it’s in the wheel well about 6 inches up from his nose.

Exterior Search (0:46.63)

I was a little worried here that he was going to alert on possible left-over picnic goodies.

The exterior search area was dauntingly huge with lots of nooks, crannies, and distractions.

Now we’re on the birch scent trail.

Getting closer…

Found it Mom!  This was one of Pongo’s best alerts: looking up at me and sitting. Here he is mid-sit.

It was a tricky hide: birch scent stuffed into a birch log but what a smart boy!

Container Search (0:14.12)

This is one of my favorite photos.

And Pongo’s favorite part of the search: getting the treat!

We unfortunately don’t have any photos from the Interior Search but we do have some random photos.

Waiting to move into the search areas.

The awards ceremony.

Our Nose Work Champion

Literally.  I really should try and be humble right now but I am one proud Mama and don’t care if I gloat just a little.  Pongo was on today.  I was on today.  And we both rocked Alaska’s first official K9 Nose Work trial!  My goals for today were 1) have fun 2) trust my dog and 3) focus on accuracy not speed.  We accomplished all three goals and so much more…

First Place Overall NW1:

PONGO BUCHANAN!!!   2:09.26

NW1 Title:


Exterior Search: 2nd Place (46.63 seconds)

Interior Search: 2nd Place (21.21 seconds) There was a 0.17 second difference between 1st and 2nd place.

Vehicle Search: 47.30 seconds (12th Place)

Container Search: 14.12 seconds (4th Place)  We could have placed 2nd or 3rd but I didn’t realize that Pongo’s nose had crossed the starting line, which is when the timer starts, and I waited a couple seconds before giving him the “Go find it” cue.

Faults= 0!!!  This was my biggest fear and sweet Pongo gave beautiful alerts today. I thought maybe we had faulted in the container search because he smashed the source box a little but no fault was given.

If you’re interested in seeing Overall Results and Element Results for all trial participants, they can be viewed here.

Steve and I are both beaming and so very proud of Pongo!

Back In The Game

After a holiday hiatus, we are back into our Nose Work classes.  Pongo has sniffed his way to Advanced Nose Work and is preparing for a trial in May.  Our instructor Liz, at Alaska Dog Sports made today’s class especially challenging for the dogs.  Instead of using the usual small, metal tins to hide the scents, she put the scented q-tips into empty pens.  That means the scent could only travel through the very small opening at the end of the pen.

I love watching Pongo take on a challenge but felt for him today when he struggled a bit to find the hides.

We also had a chance to practice box drills.  Pongo is working really hard on alerting with a sit instead of becoming the Smash-O-Nator and destroying the hide or the box.  All of these small details matter in a trial.  He can find the hide no problem but if he disturbs the hide area, it’s a fault.  So, practice, practice, practice!

Take A Whiff of This Weekend

Pongo spent this past weekend fully immersed in Nose Work.

On Saturday he took his Birch Odor Recognition Test (ORT), which is a test he must pass in order to compete in any Nose Work trial.  The ORT is a basic box drill where there are 12 boxes lined up in two rows of 6.  The dog is on-leash and walks up and down the rows sniffing for the Birch scent that is hidden in one of the boxes.  Pongo is a pro at this drill and we have practiced it many times both in class and at home; nonetheless, I was still very nervous when we entered the training facility to take our test.  As soon as we entered, Pongo knew what he was there to do and targeted the hide within 24 seconds.  I gave a huge sigh of relief because that was all he needed to do to pass his Birch ORT.  Steve came in with us to video his success but  unbeknownst (well, known to us but forgotten-I know, I should have read the rules again the night before the ORT) we were not allowed to videotape or photograph the ORT.  Steve immediately erased the video but it was not clear if that faux pas had disqualified us from the ORT.  We had to wait a good 45 minutes while the entirety of our group finished the ORT before learning that Pongo had in fact passed!  Never, ever again will we go into a competition without first reviewing the rules–lesson learned!

Since I don’t have any footage of his ORT, here’s a picture of what a box drill looks like and his scorebook with the most glorious letter: P.

Then Sunday, we spent 4 hours in an Advanced Nose Work seminar with Jean Richardson, who is a Certified Nose Work Instructor (CNWI) from Oregon; she is also the one who officiated our Odor Recognition Test on Saturday.  We were able to run our dogs for three different types of scenarios and hides: 3 low hides, 3 high hides, and a paint can drill. The guest instructor used both Birch and Anise for her hides. Anise is one of the three target odors that dogs can search for.  What surprised us the most, and really made us proud was Pongo has never smelled nor searched for Anise before and the two rounds that had Anise in them, he found it as his very first find.  We now know we can move on to Anise and can hopefully do the Anise ORT in the Spring.  Pongo loves Nose Work.  It’s his job.  What we love about Nose Work is that he has fun while doing it and is completely tuckered out afterwards.

K9-Nose Work Mock Trial

“Are you ready?” the rather intimidating Anchorage Police officer, who was judging our first search asked me.

“Yes.  Pongo, sit. Pongo, watch.  Good boy.  Now, GO FIND.”  Pongo takes off knowing his job at hand.  He lingers at a pile of games on a shelf.  “Could that be the hide?” I ask myself but Pongo is off pulling me around the room.  His sniffing increases as he sticks his nose between the refrigerator and the wall.  He moves around the refrigerator definitely on the birch scent.  Pongo sticks his nose under the hot-water base board heater and not so gracefully, pulls it off it’s hinge.  He’s found the hide.

“Alert!” I call pointing to the heater that Pongo had just destroyed.

The APD officer then completely threw me for a loop by asking, “Where?”  Well…right here where Pongo’s nose is I wanted to say but I point to where Pongo first caught the scent at the heater, which was behind the heater and toward the floor.

“Ahhh…down in there.” I reply with a questioning tone in my voice.  Please let this be it, please let me have identified it correctly as I only have a 4-6″ margin of error.


My heart leaves my throat with that answer.  I was very fortunate though because the hide was actually in the heater, sitting on the coils.  I lucked out that I pointed within the allotted distance.  We made it through our first search, three more to go.

This is our first K9-Nose Work Trial and while it was a mock trial, I had the nerves of a real competition.  The trial was held out in Palmer at Spring Creek Farm.  It was a gorgeous setting to spend the day working, sitting in the sun, and meeting others who are interested in the same sport.

We knew this was going to be a challenge for Pongo.  Not so much the nose work part but the part where he has to be around 30 other dogs.  We came prepared with the clicker, a bag full of treats, and a reminder to Pongo that we are here to work.  Our latest strategy for handling his reactivity is to encourage Pongo to look at another dog (at a safe, comfortable distance).  When Pongo looks at a dog: click, Pongo orients back to us: treat.  He caught on rather quickly. Even though he had to wear a red bandana, which communicated to others that he needs a little more space than other dogs, he only had 3 reactions to other dogs.  Two of them were my fault because I didn’t give him enough space; the last one, I guess the other dog looked at him funny and he went off.  It was a lot of work to keep his reactivity to a minimum but it was great training for all of us.

I tell myself, “Don’t cry, Jen.  Just don’t cry.” as the tears well up in my eyes.  I felt like I had just failed Pongo.  Pongo caught  the scent during our second search: the vehicle search.  He was showing a lot of interest in the wheel well so I called “alert.”  It was too early.  I was about 8″ off from the hide.  The judge was very kind in showing Pongo where it was so I could reward him at the source but that still didn’t take the sting out of my mistake.  Steve comes over to comfort me, which made the tears behind the dam rise.  I don’t do well when I make mistakes in competitions. I tend to beat myself up and go over and over what I should have done, could have done differently.  We still had two more searches to complete so I needed to suck it up and put my game face back on.

After lunch, we moved on to our final two searches: exterior and container.  The exterior search is the most daunting to me because the hide, which is one Q-Tip end dipped in birch scent could be anywhere in the search area: under rocks, in the grass, in some totally obscure place.  You have to trust your dog.  I could tell right away when Pongo was given the “Go Find” cue, he was not mentally in the game.  His tail wasn’t wagging like it usually does when he’s searching and he seemed highly distracted.  It had been a long day already and a hard day for Pongo trying to keep it together.  He was tired.  I encouraged Pongo to “go find” a couple of times and followed his cues as he made his way around the perimeter of the search area.  He stopped, interestedly sniffed a rock, and pawed at it.  “Alert!” I call.  Once again…too soon.  My heart sinks as I realize I had completely misread his signals again.  As I walk from the search area, I overhear someone say, “It looked like that could have been it.”  I agree but there’s no comfort in those words because I had disappointed not just myself but I felt like I had let Steve and Pongo down because of my lack of patience and my nerves.

Our last search was the container search.  I knew Pongo had this one in the bag.  His alert signals are very obvious: smash the box.  He rocked the container search with a time of 17.9 seconds.  It was a positive way to end our day!

I am so very proud of Pongo for all of his hard work both working the scents and, most importantly, remaining calm around 30 dogs while on leash.  I feel like we made a couple steps forward in our quest to help Pongo overcome his leash reactivity.  Plus, I learned what I need to do at our September 17th Odor Recognition Test (ORT): stay calm, be patient, and work the whole search area before alerting.  Pongo has always come back to a hide if he passed it.  I need to trust him and his nose!

Intro To Nose Work: The Finale

It felt very strange and, I have to admit, a little disappointing that we weren’t going to our Nose Work class last night.  Last Wednesday was our final class for Intro to Nose Work and what a wild ride it was!  Pongo ended his nose work class on a great note.  I think we’ve found something he really loves to do, and it is so much fun watching him work.  We start Nose Work Level 2 on May 25th and can’t wait to go!  Until then, we’ll be practicing, practicing, practicing.