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Official Rules & Exercise Descriptions for each Level

NW Level 1 – General overview

General overview

Level 1 is designed test the dog’s ability to search in 6 different search areas with simple single accessible hides.

Target Odor: The handler may use any target odor or combination of target odor provided that the hide is not paired with food. The target odor must be specified with the submission in the field Odor(s) used in submission.

Indication: No specific or formal behavior is required at source. Dog must exhibit an obvious change of behavior in a way that is obvious to an outside individual who is fluent in nosework.

Required Calls: “Handler must say “Alert” or raise hand when their dog has communicated they have found target odor. The Alert call must come before rewarding your dog and should be the handler’s first confirmation of their dog finding the hide.”

Odor Hygiene: A very important aspect in scent detection is Odor Hygiene. We must do all we can to avoid contamination!! If you get oil on your hands and then touch objects in your environment or search area, the scent can linger for months. Make sure scent aids are securely in straws and will not fall out. Clean the outside of your tins, and don’t reuse putty that can retain and leave odor behind. Take precaution when handling hides and wash hands frequently.

Gear: Flat collar, martingale collars, limited slip, back clip harness, any length leash is allowed including retractable leashes. Dogs can run with no collar or harness if in a safe area (at home/inside). NOT ALLOWED are: prongs, head halters, no-pull harnesses front or dorsal clip.

Equipment: Target odor (specified), scent vessel (tin, straw), collar/harness, leash, 6 specified containers (such as metal switch boxes, socks, shoes, open pails, colanders, mugs, cinder blocks) chair, bin/tote/trash can, 1 vehicle.

Hide Placement:  Known (no blind hides) and require that the handler’s body language does not give away the location of the hide. Hide must be accessible so that dog can get to source. Dog may not watch the handler place the hides.

For NW TEAM 1, handlers must show 4 of the 6 hide placements. Searches where this is REQUIRED are: 1-1 (Interior Threshold Under Chair), 1-3 (Distance), 1-4 (Container), and 1-5 (Exterior)

Handler can show hide in 1 of 4 ways:
– Handler can show by picking up hide immediately after rewarding dog and showing to camera.
– Handler can put dog away and go back to show hide, but dog and handler can NOT both leave view of camera.
– Handler can take camera to show hide placement once dog is put away, but handler must remain in camera view at all times until the handler picks up the camera.
– A Helper can remove the hide and show it to the camera while the handler remains in camera view.

Discrete Hide Placement: Scent Aid needs to be securely in a vessel. Vessel cannot be visible to the dog or by human eye. For Level 1 Containers, it may be visible in the open container but not obvious to the dog during the search.

Max Search Height: Height accessible to dog

Location: Any familiar location, such as the house, yard or regular training area. EACH of the 6 search areas must be in a different location or a different area within the same space.

Safety: It is the handler’s responsibility to ensure a safe working environment. This would require removal of chemical cans (gasoline, etc.) or objects that could cause harm; especially not placing a hide on anything that could endanger the dog. In vehicle searches, the dog should not go under the vehicle any further than their shoulders. Leash management can also be a safety issue if the handler or dog get tangled in the leash. If you are working off leash, ensure it is a safe area for your dog.

Camera View and Set-up: Video quality and sound must allow search to be judged.

– Judge must be able to hear your “Alert” call or see your hand raised.
– Hide location must be in view when dog indicates.
– Handler must be in view when dog sources hide and can not be momentarily out of view.
– Handler cannot hold camera or wear a a camera (go pro).
– Multiple camera angles are NOT allowed.
– Having a helper video your search is allowed.
– Dog must be in view at all times. Any momentary out of view would be discretion of judge and could be Questionable.
– If dog is momentarily out of view, handler MUST be in view.
– To fully judge the team, the Handler’s entire body should be in view of the camera for the majority of the search. Occasionally part of your body may be out of the frame. In that case your upper body should still be visible. We recognize that the handler may go out of camera range for short periods of time to avoid crowding their dog or due to search space/camera location.
– Consideration made for being behind or around the backside of a vehicle or other objects in search area.
– NO speeding up of video is allowed.

Start-line: A start line marker must be visible in the video and obvious to the judge. Start lines can be marked with cones, tape, water bottles, door threshold or whatever is available. In tight spaces with limited camera angles, the start line can include your dog coming into a room or quickly into the camera view.

Cues: The dog should not exhibit confusion or delayed searching activity in response to the search cue (verbal or non-verbal) given by the handler. A second cue can be given, however the handler should not give additional search cues.

Handling: The dog should be driving the search the majority of the time. Handler cannot point at the hide or in any way influence the location. The judge should not be able to figure out the hide location prior to the dog finding the hide based on the handler’s body language. Handler can not touch anything in the search area unless to protect their dog from something falling or if their dog gets caught or tangled with something. Handler should not drop leash during the search unless circumstances require for the safety of the dog.

Leash Management: Good leash handling is an important part of nosework. Poor leash handling that causes the leash to drag behind the dog or get caught on objects can disrupt a search area and distract the dog. Allowing the leash to get tangled around your dog is also distracting and can be a safety issue. A questionable pass may be scored for excessive search area disruption from the leash or if the dog’s effectiveness is severely impacted by poor leash management or tangling.

Reinforcement/Reward Delivery: Reinforcement is allowed for rewarding an indication and to motivate if needed. Food rewards need to be delivered to the dog and not placed on the ground. The intent for this program is to practice good etiquette so that a trial search area is not contaminated or compromised. Toy rewards are allowed as long as the search area is not compromised.

Maximum Video Length: 8 minutes for all 6 searches merged into ONE video submission. Any time over this limit will result in an NY. Playlists will not be accepted.

Sample Video:

Additional samples of Level 1 passing videos

Sample Videos:

Exercise 1-1: Interior Threshold Hide Under Chair

Dog demonstrates it can find and indicate target odor placed under the seat of a chair, with the chair located at the threshold.  The hide will be placed under the seat of an upright chair; the seat should be at least 12″ from the ground and the chair must be located at the threshold, located roughly within the first third of area.  Handler must pick up and show the hide in camera view after dog is rewarded.

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Exercise 1-2: Interior Hide Under Bin Handle

 Dog demonstrates it can find and indicate target odor under the lip of a bin or tote during an interior search.  The hide will be placed under the lip of a bin, tote, trash can, etc.  The handler may show the hide to the camera, however it is not required.

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Exercise 1-3: Distance Search

Dog demonstrates independent searching to show they can search away from the handler.  Handler to provide visible boundary line in an interior or exterior search area and the hide placed a minimum of 6’ from the boundary line.  Handler must show the hide to the camera after dog is rewarded.

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Exercise 1-4: Container Search

Dog demonstrates it can find and indicate target odor in a simple container search using non-typical trial containers.  Handler must show the hide to the camera after rewarding dog.

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Exercise 1-5: Exterior Search

Dog demonstrates they can search and locate a single hide in an outside search area. Handler must show the hide to the camera after rewarding the dog.

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Exercise 1-6: Vehicle Search

 Dog demonstrates it can find and indicate target odor on a vehicle, indoors or outdoors.  Handler may present the hide to the camera after rewarding dog; however not required.

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Additional Resources

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(For convenience only.  Please rely on the website exercise pages for details, updates, examples and judging criteria.)