Nose Work

Police sniffer dog during a training exercise with sample packagesThe words “canine sports” often conjure images of dogs racing through agility courses, leaping for Frisbees, or long jumping off docks. But your dog doesn’t have to be an athlete to participate in sports thanks to K9 Nose Work, also known as “nose work.”

Originally created in 2006 by three professional trainers working with certified detection dogs, they quickly realized that there were benefits to scent work for “non-professional dogs” as well. It wasn’t long until they developed K9 Nose Work to share with pet parents across the country.

Depending on its breed, a dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times better than a human’s – some experts claim that number is actually in the millions. Creating opportunities for dogs to exercise this strong sense provides them with both physical activity and mental stimulation. It also focuses high energy dogs, builds confidence in shy or fearful dogs, and is especially beneficial in shelters. Another advantage of nose work is that it is a great exercise for dogs of all ages and activity levels, so even senior or physically limited dogs can benefit.

It’s easy to get started in nose work, just grab some empty cardboard boxes, your pup’s favorite treats, and follow these simple steps:

  1. Confine your dog in a safe place away from the room where treats will be hidden, they shouldn’t see what you’re doing!
  2. Lay out several boxes, put treats in some but not all of them (TIP! Smelly treats work best). This encourages the dog to “self-reward,” a great incentive for this game!
  3. Bring your dog into the room and let her figure out where the treats are on her own. You can praise her if she finds them, but do not distract her from the search.
  4. Bait additional boxes while your dog is busy searching.
  5. Remove your dog from the search area and allow her time to rest and drink water, this is thirsty work!

Depending on a dog’s skill, the game can progress in difficulty to include hiding favorite toys and using larger search areas!

Want to find classes to learn more about this sport? Visit the National Association of Canine Scent Work for more information.