This winter, I took NW101: Introduction to Nosework with Dot at the Bronze Level. This class was taught by Margaret Simek and introduced the very beginning foundations of Nosework, a fun activity to play with your dogs that involves teaching them certain odors to recognize and alert to.
I like that this class required NO previous experience and assumed NO prior knowledge of scent from the dogs. The equipment needed is minimal, you will not use all the items on the supply list in this first course but you will need them if you continue on through the series. I purchased my essential oils on amazon separately much cheaper than buying a complete kit. The other items I was able to find around my house and at dollar stores.
If you would like to see an actual lecture with videos for this class, it is the sample course available to view for free. You can watch Margaret's lecture on handling odor and creating hides as well as see the first two games in the progression!
I very much appreciated that the method Margaret uses does NOT first have the dog searching for food. In teaching Utility scent discrimination, I find this cheeze whiz method to be cumbersome. The removal and fading of food adds an unnecessary step that can be hard for some dogs to overcome. Using the method in this course you can utilize a clicker or not. I chose not to as I think it draws the dog toward me when what we want is for them to stay at the odor.
At the end of the course, Dot was successfully passing up distractions (some of the containers have smelly leather gardening gloves, cat toys, socks and treats in them and my movement around her is a distraction that she had to learn to ignore), indicating odor and staying at it.
Margaret explains proper technique for handling odors (how to avoid contamination and possible alerts without reward). She also explains a bit about how scent travels and how environment can affect the path and movement of scent. I will admit that this was not a terribly thrilling topic for me, but I appreciate that the course included what I considered to be just enough of the topic to hold my attention and not overwhelm me.
The class progresses through a series of fun games to play with your dog, each adding a different element of challenge for the dog. I enjoyed the video lectures. While I don't think I would be able to learn by videos alone, watching the video and then reading the instructions gave me a very good idea of each lecture.
As in other classes I've taken at Bronze, I was able to benefit greatly from the Gold students videos and Margaret's discussions with them. Any question or problem I had eventually came up for someone else. There were a few dogs that were working at nearly the same pace and style as Dot, so we followed those dogs closely and took note of the comments made on their performances.
Excellent value at $65 for Bronze Level. If you had an exceptional dog, 6 weeks could get you nearly ready for your ORT (Odor Recognition Test) in Birch!