Scent Detection and Nosework
Scent Detection and Nosework
We all know that dogs have a great nose, that’s why working dogs are employed around the globe using those noses to detect everything from explosives and wildlife sign to bed bugs and COVID-19.
The sport of Scent Detection and Nosework is a recreational version designed to allow non-working dogs to enjoy the challenge of locating a scent and communicating with their handler that the scent has been located.
While there are some recreational scentwork trials that allow non-working AND working dogs, for more about working dogs, please go to the Working Dog Division page on this site.
In competitive nosework, the handler must trust their dog’s nose to detect a particular scent, which the dog has been trained to recognize, and then follow the trail of that scent – always on a leash, unless instructed otherwise by the judge – to the origin. The scents, which are utilized in CKC Scent Detection trials are wintergreen, pine, anise, birch, clove, and cyprus; one drop of scented oil is placed on a cotton swab and then hidden out of sight. It is up to the dog to find the scent within a specified search area and ultimately to communicate to the handler that the source has been found.
There are five classes, starting with the entry-level “instinct” class, and in ascending order the novice, open, excellent, and master classes. Each class tests the dog’s ability at a new, more challenging level, encouraging greater perseverance and focus on fine-tuning of olfactory senses. The scent source may be within a container located in the interior of a building, or exterior – the great outdoors!
Dogs are divided into height divisions within the classes based on the height indicated on the entry form. Titles are awarded when the dog acquires the required number of qualifying scores within the class entered.
How to Get Started
We recommend taking the following steps:
- Make sure your dog has excellent foundation manners. Take a course with one of CAPDT’s trainers to make sure your dog has a great recall, stands well for examination, is crate trained, has a good long down-stay (for resting between rounds) and knows their release cues. These are among the very first foundation skills that will help the dog operate well at a class or show.
- Watch a demo test in the CKC’s Scent Detection Videos area. Like most dog sports, there are beginner/hobby levels and advanced competitive levels. Think about your time, energy and finances and consider what a realistic goal is for you and your dog.
- Have a look at this excellent page that describes how scent cones work.
- Have a look at some foundation training exercises for your potential star that can also help you build a better recall.
- Review how to make your own scent detection training box and scented swabs
- Ever heard of Clever Hans? He was a horse who became famous for his math skills…until his trainer and viewers realized the trainer was actually giving the horse cues. Find out how to avoid the Clever Hans Effect here.
- You may wish to join the Facebook group for scentwork enthusiasts (make sure to answer the group’s questions when making a your request to join or your request will be automatically declined).
- Then find a local CAPDT trainer who offers an scentwork fundamentals or a “Try Nosework” course. You can search in the CAPDT directory using the word “nosework” and your area. Our CAPDT trainers can help you learn what you need to compete. Many trainers will offer help and support as you move ahead in your chosen sport.
- There are several scentwork organizations across Canada and North America that can also be very helpful:
- In Canada, formal Scent Detection events are held under the rules of the Canadian Kennel Club. Review the CKC’s Guide to Scent Detection and rules and regulations. You may wish to consider taking a membership with the CKC as you progress in the sport so you can compete in official events.
- American Kennel Club (AKC) Scent Work
- National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW): is the oldest governing body in nosework, established in the mid-2000s. NACSW is the only organization that offers formal training for individuals who want to teach nosework. Individuals who successfully complete this instructor training program become Certified Nose Work Instructors (CNWIs).
- Sporting Detection Dogs Association (SDDA)
- United Kennel Club (UKC) Nosework
- United States Canine Scent Sports (USCSS)
- Canine – Work And Games (C-WAGS)
- Most importantly, have fun!