I have had several inquiries about the “bowl-sandwich” I use as well as what kind of boxes I use.
You will need to buy two bowls that like these ones: http://www.petco.com/product/105768/Petco-Stainless-Steel-Non-Tip-Bowls.aspx I typically use the 16 oz. size. Take a hammer and good-size nail and hammer in holes in the bowl section of one of the bowls. I typically hammer in 15-20 holes in the belly of the bowl. Make sure you hammer into the bowl so that the burrs made when the holes are hammered in are on the outside of the bowl and not sticking up into the inside of the bowl. For this reason, do NOT use a drill to make the holes because you end up with burrs on both sides of the bowl!! Once you have the holes punched into one of the bowls, layer your scented q-tips into the bowl section of the other bowl. Place the bowl with the holes on top of the bowl containing the scented q-tips. You now have created my “bowl-sandwich” out of the two nested bowls. When using the bowls to “pair,” simply sprinkle 5-6 pieces of the stinky reward-food (or the toy) into the “bowl-sandwich” and place the “bowl-sandwich” into a box (“hot-box”) and shut the lid. When the dog finds the “hot-box,” immediately open the lid and allow the dog to self-reward on the food. When the dog has finished self-rewarding, drop anywhere from 5 to 40 pieces of food in the top bowl, one piece at a time (i.e., “supplementally-reward”). Keep the amount unpredictable but the reinforcement over odor should be more, not less, in this early stage. You are imprinting value on the odor, so make it a super strong association with heavy reinforcement. Also, make sure that the hand that is dropping the food into the bowl does not move further away from the top bowl than 2 inches because you want the dog’s nose to stay in the top bowl and not swivel back and forth following the hand that is dropping in the food. The dog must learn that he gets the food in the bowl and not from your hand and start to orient to the bowl more and more. Each time you repeat this training, the dog will be inhaling the odor of birch (or anise or clove) as the dog is self-rewarding and then being supplementally-rewarded. The longer you have the dog inhaling the odor while he is being rewarded the stronger the association between the odor of birch and the salient reward will become.
In time, by doing this, the dog associates the odor of birch (or anise or clove) with that salient reward-food (or toy) and the dog learns to love the odor just as if it were the reward-food. This is pure classical – i.e., Pavlovian – conditioning at its best. And we condition in this concept that “odor is important” (i.e., “odor obedience”) in the context of HUNTING for the odor right from the beginning. Thus, I believe that K9 Nose Work Training is “hunting-based” as opposed to “obedience-based” from the start of our training. If done correctly, you should end up with a dog that eagerly hunts for the odor of birch and pushes toward source when the find is made.
I like identical boxes that have a lid that can cover the entire top of the bottom portion of the box. I also like boxes with lids that flip open as opposed to lifting completely off. Finally, I like boxes with lids that only have a flap to tuck in the front and not the sides. A company called Uline makes boxes that are often used in NACSW ORTs and NW Trials. However, you have to buy them in bulk, so I just have folks buy Staples’ White Mailing Boxes. They work perfectly but any set of identical boxes with lids will work! The size I like is the 12 1/8 x 9 1/4 x 4 inch Mailing Box but, if you have a small dog, the 11 1/8 x 8 7/8 x 2 1/2 inch Mailing Boxes work fine as well. However, you will need smaller metal bowls to work with this smaller sized box. Staples only sells these boxes in its stores. They cannot be found on their website for some reason.