Welcome to Scent Work!
Scent Work/Nosework is a sport where dogs are trained to find and alert their handler to the location of hidden essential oil scented Q-tips.
There are three major organizations in the US:
Concentration: 2 drops per large container of Q-tips
You must qualify in all four searches in an NW1-3 (one search of each element to earn that title)
EST (element specialty titles
ORT – Odor Recognition test you must pass a single container search of each of the three odors before entering a trial
2 drops per Q-tip
You must qualify in three separate searches to earn that element title. Once you have all 4 element titles, you earn the overall level title.
None – begin in Novice
1 drop per Q-tip
You must qualify in two separate searches to earn that element title. Once you have all 4 element titles, you earn the overall level title.
None – begin in Novice
**AKC is most prevalent/highly recognized since it shows up on your dog’s registered name etc. NACSW is growing rapidly in accessibility with small waitlists, easy to get into. AKC trials require paper mail-in entries, while NACSW is entirely completed online. UKC is club dependent for entries and can be accepted in different methods.
NACSW: National Association of Canine Scent Work https://nacsw.net
AKC: American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/sports/akc-scent-work/
UKC: United Kennel Club https://www.ukcdogs.com/nosework
There are two major schools of thought for training nose work. Detection trainers stem from detection dogs/law enforcement and sport dog trainers that are heavily focused on trial preparation and sport training (AKC and NACSW). Detection trainers use a lot of shaping, capturing the dog’s natural interest in the odor. They introduce odor quickly and imprint the dogs on odor early on in the training process. Sport dog trainers will focus on foundation searching behaviors by having dogs search for food (food is innately reinforcing for the dog) before introducing and pairing odor with the food reward. My methodology is a combination of the two. I begin shaping the dog’s alert and positive association with odor early on, while separately encouraging food searches. This allows dogs to be building value in the search while also building value in the actual odor itself.
Some dogs are pickier about what treats they are willing to work for than others. It is important to experiment with different types of treats (i.e. soft/chewy, freeze dried, cheese, etc) and create a reward “hierarchy”, ranking treats from lowest value to highest value for your dog.. Food searches are to be done with some of the highest value food rewards, as we are looking for the intense search drive that very high value treats tend to bring out. When shaping/pairing odor, high value rewards should also be used – however, a large quantity of treats are used when doing this, so the treat choice must be something that your dog’s stomach can tolerate in large quantities. Please make sure to bring very high value treats for food searches, and a large quantity (~ a full quart ziploc full) of high value treats that will agree with your dog’s stomach.