Nosework starting routine

Starting routine is a sequence of behaviours known not only in dog sports, including nosework, but also among human athletes. Usually it is a short sequence, 10-30 seconds, which precedes the start. Why is such a routine needed? Because it should always be the same, it aims to prepare, largely mentally, for what will happen in a moment. It is a kind of warm-up, gathering thoughts, focusing on the task, feeling of safety, achieving the right level of arousal.

Thanks to the starting routine, an athlete, regardless of whether human or doggy, is to be well prepared for the best performance of the task waiting for them.

How does a routine in nosework look like most often?

  • Clothes/accessories (e.g. putting on another collar/harness, putting on a scarf or some sweater).
  • Words (e.g. turning up the dog with the words “watch, what is there, what we will do”).
  • Touch (e.g. holding the dog by the chest, under the belly).
  • Treats (e.g. issuing goodies when ‘transporting’ the dog to the start).

These elements can appear individually or they can be combined. Everything must be chosen accordingly to your dog. Some dogs need a longer starting routine which will begin after taking them out of the car and will continue until approaching the starting line. There are also dogs which only need a very short routine, such as a certain holding on the starting line and immediately saying the word to search.

Sometimes we can have touch-me-not dogs which we will not touch, because it will only cause stress for them. We must take into account the level of the arousal of the dog, are they anxious? If the stimuli in the environment affect them quite strongly, we need more time to make them fill alright, to redirect their attention to a specific task, which will be more effective than letting go to search a dog that reacts constantly to the stimulus or is distracted so much that they are constantly looking around.

Some dogs we need to excite more, while others need to be silenced before the start (e.g. they have to sit and we shouldn’t talk to them until saying the word to search). So don’t be afraid to experiment with the starting routine, try different elements and combine them in a sequence that will be the most helpful for your dog.