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Official Rules & Exercise Descriptions for each Level

NW Level 4 – General overview

General overview

Level 4 is designed to test the dog’s odor obedience in the presence of visual distractors, clearing an area after locating a hide, work under spatial pressure and the ability to work pooling odor to locate source in more challenging search setups.  Level 4 also adds some handling challenges.

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: “Alert” or a raised hand when dog has found the hides (all hides are known in this level). The Alert call must be the handler’s first confirmation of their dog finding the hide. “Finish” must be called to end the search.

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 qtips 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 handing hides when placing and picking up.

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:  2 different target odor (specified), scent vessel (tin, straw), collar/harness, leash, 13 containers – any kind that have a lid, a protein and sweet distractor food, tweezers to show the crack hide, Drawer or cabinet.  Note: The same odor can be used for service and professionally trained detection dogs who are specifically trained on one odor.

Hide Placement: Known placement to the handler (no blind hides). The handler’s body language cannot give away the location of the hide.

Handler must show the hides in Exercise 4-4 Tight Space and 4-5 Exterior Crack hide to the camera.

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.

Ensure the handler and/or dog is not blocking view when removing the hide to show to the camera.

Discrete Hide Placement: Hides need to be securely in vessels. Vessel cannot be visible to the dog while searching.

Hide Visibility: Hide must not be visible to dog while searching.

Max Search Height: Height accessible to dog.

Location:  Any location

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 and 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 gets 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 an action camera (such as a GoPro).
– 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 should be visible and obvious to the judge in the video. 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. The 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: Reinforcement is allowed for rewarding an indication and to motivate if needed.

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

Sample Video:

Additional samples of Level 4 passing videos

Sample Videos:

Exercise 4-1: Interior with Visible Cold Tins

This interior search shows the dog has good odor obedience and searching skills in the presence of visible cold tins. The search is set up in a way so that the dog encounters multiple cold tins before getting to the hide.

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Exercise 4-2: Clearing Containers

This exercise tests the dog’s odor obedience and ability to avoid food distractions in container searches, as well as running it like unknown number of hides. The search is setup so that distractors are in the boxes before and after the hot container. After indicaitng the hide, the team must continue searching down the line to clear the rest of the containers as if there are an unknown number of hides.

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Exercise 4-3: Containers in X Formation

This exercise requires that the dog search for 2 hides among 13 boxes set in a X formation. The hides will be placed in a way that requires the handler to think about the pattern of the containers during handling. This is a common pattern seen in some Nosework organizations.

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Exercise 4-4: Tight Space

This exercise tests the dog’s ability to work under spatial pressure and source a hide without impediment from the handler. The search is set up so that the hide is Accessible and is placed well into the tight area. The dog should need to reach a little to be able to get to the hide.

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Exercise 4-5: Exterior Ground Crack Hide

Exterior search with a hide placed on the ground in a crack. The crack can be on cement/asphalt or along the edge between 2 different ground surfaces.

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Exercise 4-6: Inaccessible Hide in Drawer

Hide is placed in a closed drawer requiring the dog to locate a contained hide.

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.)