© Copyright Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers

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 coronavirus.

The sport of Scent Detection and Nosework is the 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.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Most importantly, have fun!