Nose Work Gear for Handlers

Nose Work Gear for Handlers

Handlers need nice gear, too. We’ve talked about what our dogs wear for Nose Work: whether they should wear a Nose Work harness, what kind of harness might work best, and what kind of long-line might work best. What about us? It’s time to outfit the other half of the team.

Carrying Cookies

Starting gear: a standard bait bag. There are several on the market. It’s far better than carrying bags of treats in your non-leash hand. To reward quickly and to be a good leash handler, you can’t be hand-carrying your entire supply of treats. Try to find a bait bag that holds enough treats, gives easy quick access to the treats, and attaches to you or your clothes comfortably and securely.

But I like something that holds more stuff. Even the bigger bait bags don’t have enough room to carry Nose Work treats, reactivity treats for my anxious dog, and training treats for walking nicely on the leash between searches. And what about carrying an extra leash of a different length, if you’ll be doing different kinds of searches? A flashlight if it’s getting dark? Gloves if it’s getting chilly? Sun glasses?

Sporting Vests

Mesh sporting vests are becoming quite popular with some Elite Nose Work competitors. In sporting vests, the fishing design has more pockets; the shooting style is more streamlined.

Nose Work Gear for Handlers
The mesh shooting vests come in women’s and men’s sizes

In addition to the large front pockets, perfect for carrying treats for fast rewards, the large back pockets are perfect for carrying extra items such as a second long-line. The lightweight mesh is comfortable, and breathes easily in hot weather. Get one large enough to wear over all your other layers, including winter coats.

Half-Vests and Aprons

My personal favorite are the shooting half-vests, or shooting aprons, with large front pockets and a roomy back pocket perfect for stashing an extra leash, or a water bottle on a hot day.

Shooting half-vests are comfortable, have gigantic pockets, and it’s easy to add a slobber rag. Photo credit Marcela Winslow.

The Helsitar Training Pockets apron is specifically made for dog sports, and now comes in pink and camo in addition to black!

Nose Work Gear for Handlers
The Helsitar is similar to a shooting half-vest, but has smaller pockets. Photo credit Marcella Winslow.

Tool aprons can be purchased cheaply on the internet, at restaurant supply stores, and at many hardware stores. Home Depot sells tool aprons for less than a dollar. The roomy apron pockets can fit multiple treat stashes, toys, and an extra leash. It’s comfortable. Treats are always at hand, and don’t tend to spill. The apron strings can be tied snug over summer clothes, or loosened to fit over winter coats.

When I volunteer at Trials, many handlers ask me to hold their things for them, while they search. I’m happy to oblige. And if you are carrying something large like a walking stick or heavy coat, that’s the best solution. But most things I’m asked to hold are small enough to fit into a vest or apron pocket. Why worry about leaving something behind, worry the volunteer will forget to return your things, when you’re already nervous about competing?

Double duty

I post this on a recommendation, but have not tested it myself. These Zen Tek vests are supposed to be made of a high-tech material developed for NASA space suits. The fabric is supposed to be cooling in the heat, and warming in the cold. Seems too good to be true? Perhaps. One drawback: I believe it’s meant to be worn as an inner layer, next to the skin, which would greatly reduce the utility of the large pockets, for Nose Work purposes.

Nose Work Gear for Handlers
The large pockets in front and back are great for treats and other Nose Work supplies

If you try it, please report back to us!

Slimy fingers

Maybe you’re lucky. Maybe your Nose Work treats are grease-free and crumb-free. Maybe your dog doesn’t slobber all over the Nose Work toy reward, or slime you when taking the treat. But many of us end up with gooey residue of treats and dog spit on our hands.

Nose Work Gear for Handlers
This handy towel comes with a little black carry bag, which I haven’t found a use for, but can’t throw away either

This REI camping towel is absorbent, machine washable, lightweight, durable, and easy to clip to a belt loop or bait bag. It’s the next best thing to actual hand washing with water.

Cold hands

Fingerless gloves may look and sound silly, but if you want to keep your hands warm while retaining the feel of the leash in your fingers, they may be your only solution. My very favorite fingerless gloves are no longer being made, but I can give you some guidelines.

Fleece is warm, bends with your movement, stays warm when wet, and is washable and easy-care. In our Bay Area climate, a thin layer of fleece is usually sufficient. But fleece doesn’t make a great surface for leash handling. I recommend a layer of leather or hardy synthetic on the palm, for added durability, and for a better grip on the leash.

Nose Work Gear for Handlers
These gloves have nice Nose Work features, but I haven’t tested them for quality or fit

Other gear

It’s helpful to have a hat for the sun, a hat for the rain, and a hat for the cold. So many hat varieties, styles, materials, and colors to choose from! And, if you’re a member of the NACSW™, you can purchase these. I prefer sun hats with wide brims, so I don’t have to smear sun screen on my face. Rain hats with front brims are nice, to keep the raindrops off my glasses.

Nose Work Gear for Handlers
I can mash this sun hat into a suitcase, and it will bounce right back into shape

A head-lamp can be very useful for searching after dark. Of course our dogs can search just as well in the dark, but many of us humans, including me, have a hard time getting around without light. With the flashlight on the forehead, the hands are left free to handle the leash and the rewards. Just be careful not to shine it in others’ eyes, canine or human.

Nose Work Gear for Handlers

There are lots of great ideas out there. What do you wear to improve your Nose Work handling? What do you wear to look good while doing Nose Work? Do you have favorite Nose Work gear for yourself? Favorite Nose Work t-shirt? Please share your ideas.

Copyright 2015 by Linda Fletcher