HOW TO TEACH YOUR DOG A NOSE PRESS ALERT
Everyone who watches Iona search loves her nose press/freeze alert. This is sometimes called a “passive alert” because she is not actively digging or biting at source. Having a trained final response like this has its pros and cons and teaching your dog a nose press is never a substitute for reading your dog.
This type of alert is a conscious decision from the dog and as a result, they can false or fringe alert. Trained final alerts will often times disappear when a dog is trialing due to the increased pressure. That being said, I love Iona’s alert because it is accurate and not destructive.
To train this, we will split the skills into two parts: Training the nose press alert, and teaching your dog to search.
When your dog is nose pressing, they will be holding their head still for a few seconds. It is important to teach this concept to your dog before you even introduce odor. A great way to do this is with a chin rest. This is a very versatile tool and can be used for all kinds of animal husbandry tasks. Basically, you are going to mark your dog when they have their chin on your hand and then feed them. You will very gradually wait a little bit longer till you mark and feed them. This will result in a sustained chin rest. We will be doing the same thing with our nose press on odor so this is very good practice for you and your dog. Please refrain from grabbing your dog. Remember that we always want an eager dog. We want them to think, “this human is just giving away this cheese, this is so easy”.
Throughout the week, work on slowly increasing your dog’s duration for the chin rest. This takes a while. Remember that Iona already knows this task.
To teach your dog how to search, we will have them perform a simple search game for a favorite toy. Iona taught me to play this game when she was a pup and it is still her favorite game. Note that you will need to make sure that you use a different start line routine and “search” cue when your dog is searching for toys vs birch.
Basically, we will start with an easy retrieve and just put the object around a corner from the dog so that they can not see it. They will round the corner, get it and come back! You can start by having your dog wait in the same room with you. It is helpful for them to watch you throw the object.
Next, you can have your dog leave the room. When you “hide” the object, make sure to make it easy at this stage. Remember that you do not want your dog to get frustrated at this point, but think that the game is super fun and only a little challenging. Feel free to throw in a few retrieves or tricks.