Video on Demand by Karen Pryor Clicker Training |

The Most Important Concept In Nose Work You’ve Never Heard Of: Stimulus Control

Nobody likes hearing the dreaded “NO” from a judge during a nose work search. Disappointed at losing a title, or points, sometimes we accuse our dogs of “lying” when they indicate in the wrong place. In this Session, we will explore how to prevent false alerts proactively, based on the science of behavior, not blame.

Stimulus control occurs when an organism behaves in one way in the presence of a given stimulus and another way in its absence. If we think of birch, anise, clove, and cypress as discriminative stimuli or odor cues, then knowing how to get reliable stimulus control on those cues is key in avoiding false alerts. A false alert happens when a dog cues off the wrong thing in the environment—handler movement, dog slobber on a box, or pooling odor. Clarifying and isolating the odor cue from all other environmental cues early on in a dog’s training is the best way to set that dog up for consistent success throughout his or her career.

Unlock the science behind “trust your dog.” Stimulus control is the most important concept in nose work you’ve never heard of!

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.