At this point, it’s probably time to explain NACSW. NACSW stands for ‘National Association of Canine Scentwork’. It bills itself as ‘the best-smelling dog sport’. It’s fairly new on the scene, and, as indicated, it’s a dog sport, not a job. So it’s something fun you do with your dog.
What you do is train your dog – or, more accurately, your dog trains you – to find specific scents in specific situations. The three scents used are birch, clove, and anise, starting with birch. Dogs learn to find the odor in boxes, in rooms, around vehicles, and in outside environments. The scent is usually presented on half a cotton swab and the swab is hidden so it can’t be seen, only smelled. In trials, neither the dog nor the human knows where the scent is hidden. The handler needs to trust the dog to find it and be able to tell when the dog is indicating that it’s found the scent (that’s the hard part!)
The first part of NACSW, after the dog and handler have some practice and training, is an Odor Recognition Test, or ORT. Each dog has to pass an ORT with each odor before continuing on with trials using that odor. For example, Carter needs to pass a birch ORT before he and I can participate in trials where he will find birch odor in various situations.
Carter is scheduled for his first ORT on November 8. Will I be able to tell when he has found the scent? We’ll see! If not, it will be a good learning experience.
Here’s what Carter’s scorebook looks like. Page does nosework (scentwork) too, but I’ve chosen to handle only one dog at this ORT, since one (especially if it’s Carter) is plenty!