I participate in Nose Work with my dog and she goes psycho for it! It is definitely our favorite activity to do together.
It is still a fairly new sport, hence why there probably aren't very many sanctioned trials in your area. The structure for our classes went a little something like this;
*Intro To K9 Nose Work
- This builds the foundation that Nose Work is a game, using boxes and just
treats. During these 6 weeks we started integrating other objects, like chairs and umbrellas into the mix with the boxes. Until eventually we were using rooms with no boxes and just treats.
*Intro to Odor
- Same game, just now you're pairing Birch with the SAME treats. It's really important to pair in this stage and REWARD REWARD REWARD, also when rewarding making sure you're feeding right over the source, so they know Birch= Deliciousness.
As you continue to build your skills and layer your dogs skills as well, even when you're advanced, you will more often than not always be pairing. 9 out of 10 times.
You'll be really surprised how quickly they put two and two together and recognize/distinguish odor. It's amazing, really. We did a Box Drill the other evening that resembles an ORT(Odor Recognition Test). Our very first try, every dog in the class nailed it. No pairing, just Odor! It was a blast and we were all very impressed with how quickly our dogs determined the scent. Matix even offered TWO alerts, which is very uncommon at this stage. Alerts are not something you teach, alerts are something you allow the dog to offer you to better communicate where the odor is.
Vehicles and exterior are a little later down the line(but not too much-I'd say within 6-8 months of starting- or at least with my classes and instructor), because you want to make sure your dog has a firm foundation, and you have fairly good communication with one another before you attempt them. They're a little bit more challenging because you have quite a few more things to factor in then you do with Interior and Box Drills. Wind currents primarily.
Matix and I will hopefully be completing our ORT(Odor Recognition Test- you must complete this before you can trial) this March and competing this August in NW1. I've volunteered at trials before and they are very fun, a lot more laid back than any other sporting trial I've participated in.
NW2- Birch, Anise
NW3- Birch, Anise, Clove- There are no dogs titled in NW3 at this time. It is very difficult to obtain this title.
Good luck to you, and HAVE FUN!! This sport is a blast!!
ETA: Fun training things for home: Have her/him do a sit stay in another room while you set up boxes, then give your command to "search" or "find it" or whatever it is you have decided to say. Gradually you can start hiding the treats outside of the boxes and, even places the treat on furniture near the boxes, nothing too complicated though, always nose level right now, you want success! If she's working(really searching), but it's taking her a bit longer than you'd expect, let her work- don't help, they need to problem solve, it develops their skills. If she starts to get frustrated and stops working I would then move a box close to the furniture or area where you've hid the treat. Stick to one room at a time.
Here's some sites: http://www.funnosework.com/ http://www.nacsw.net/