Video on Demand by Karen Pryor Clicker Training |

ALERT to SEARCH: Back-chaining for Powerful Odor Fluency in Nose Work

Back-chaining is one of the most powerful tools available to the modern trainer. A nose work search often requires long-duration problem-solving in complex environments. Teaching the chain backwards, alert to search, ensures that the dog is always working toward the behavior he has practiced, and been reinforced for, the most.

Whether your dog has an officially trained final response or not, back-chaining is a great way to strengthen his or her ability to communicate clearly at odor. Every nose work competitor wants what is called “odor obedience,” but what that really means is “odor fluency.” Odor fluency is when a dog can work through all three phases of a search (SEARCH-LOCATE-REPORT) with complete confidence, start line to finish. Back-chaining is also a great way for competitors to learn how to read their dogs better, because a confident nose work dog exhibits clear and unique changes of behavior in each phase of a search.

In this 45- minute Session we will look at back-chaining both as a teaching tool and in terms of the many ways it can strengthen communication between the partners on a nose work team.

Sarah Owings

Sarah Owings is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA CTP). She specializes in learner-centric applications of behavioral principles that help transform the lives of fearful, shut-down, and over-the-top dogs—as well as the lives of the people who care for them. As an international speaker and regular contributor to online training forums, she is known for her innovative approaches to tough behavior problems and her compassionate and insightful teaching.

Sarah has written for Clean Run magazine on topics such as stimulus control, release cues, and toy-related cues. Her current passions include reframing concepts like “impulse control,” and encouraging trainers to embrace a philosophy of brave learning. Sarah is a member of the ClickerExpo faculty, an instructor for Cyber Scent Online, a tutor for Tromplo, and an advisor to the Glendale Humane Society in Los Angeles. She recently began teaching classes for Marin Humane in Novato and consults with their behavior team.

An avid nose work competitor, Sarah currently competing at both the Elite and Iron Dog levels with her Labrador retriever, Tucker. Tucker was the recipient of the Harry Award in 2015 and has the distinction of titling at each level of NACSW without a single miss. In Sniffing Dog Sports, he has won High in Trial in both Advanced and Excellent divisions and has earned a HIT at Iron Dog. Tucker's trained final response for nose work, a hover-freeze at source, was taught with a marker signal, following clicker training principles.