Scent Work / Nose Work

Scent Work or Nose Work is a sport where dogs get to use their best sense, their nose. This sport was inspired by canine detection dogs which have been used by the military and police forces for many years.


What: Scent Work / Nose Work
Description: Dogs use their nose to detect odors and notify their handler
Training: Training is not very intense but is highly recommended if you wish to compete
Time until ready: Various, but typically only a few months for the beginning levels
Age to start: Any age. Really. Any age from puppy to elderly dog.

With 220 million scent receptors, a dog’s nose has over 30 times the amount found in the human nose. If you walk around with your dog, you will see that they naturally use their nose to explore their environment. Scent work takes this natural ability of dogs to detect specific scents and turns it into a fun sport where they can gain positive reinforcement for this natural behavior. This is also great mental stimulation as, besides having to just use their nose, they have to figure out which one is the correct odor and signal to the human that they have found it.

Some games are in a room, some are outdoors. There can be scents in boxes or sometimes vehicle searches or just the exterior of a building.

Scent Work is open to any dog with a working nose. Since this is really the only requirement, that makes scent work one of the most accessible dog sports around. Dogs that are used to performing in Obedience, Agility or other sports can swiftly take to Scent Work. Many people use this as a fun event to keep their older dogs active when they retire from other canine sports since a dog’s nose typically works well much longer than the rest of their body. Some people feel that this type of training helps with a dog’s confidence and can calm an overactive dog.

To get started in competition Scent Work, you should find a good trainer in your area. The dogs are eventually expected to detect several different scents and a good instructor will have the knowledge to help you teach this to your dog. Dogs also have to alert the owner that they have found the scent and a good trainer can help you to notice when your dog is trying to tell you something.

However, if you don’t have any desire to compete or take classes, you can do some very simple things at home to get your dog using their nose. An example would be to take several paper cups and hide a smelly treat, such as liver, under one of them. Then encourage your dog to find the treat under the cup. Or you can get a dog puzzle toy that requires a dog to find the treat and figure out how to get it.

Since this is a fast growing sport and still relatively new, there are quite a few organizations in North America. We don’t rate the organizations in our lists so you will need to make your own decision on which to join. Typically your instructor will have a suggestion.

AKC American Kennel Club All Breeds
NACSW National Association of Canine Scent Work All Breeds
PSD Performance Scent Dogs All Breeds
SDS Sniffing Dog Sports All Breeds
SDDA Sporting Detection Dogs Association All Breeds
UKC United Kennel Club All Breeds
USCSS United States Canine Scent Sports All Breeds


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