What is K9 Nose Work?

If you always thought agility was the only sport for dogs, think again!

Nose Work is a sport where dogs use their natural sense of smell to search for a particular scent. Nose Work is geared toward pet dog owners who want to do more with their dogs, and it’s ideal for virtually any dog.

This fun and exciting sport is quickly growing in popularity on the West Coast, but it’s ever-so-slowly making its way to Florida.


So, what does my dog do in K9 Nose Work?

Working dogs that use their noses to find a target odor might be searching for narcotics, explosives, or even bed bugs.

While many of the same techniques are used, one of the biggest differences between a working detector dog and a Nose Work dog is the specific odor that is being hidden.

In the beginning stages of Nose Work, dogs search for whatever motivates them. It could be their favorite toy or even some yummy treats. These rewards are hidden in boxes, dresser drawers, or other containers. Over time, these rewards are paired with one of three target odors that are used: Birch, Anise, and Clove (all essential oils.) Eventually, the dogs are transitioned to searching for only the specified oil. They receive their reward once they have found the other odor. The oils used for this sport are very easy to find and are relatively inexpensive, making Nose Work something you can do from anywhere!

Can my dog and I compete in Nose Work events?

Depending on how serious you get about the sport of Nose Work, you have a few options.

You could just let your dog have some fun with this game. On the flip side, you can also get involved in competitions. Your pup could even earn titles for their scent skills! The National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW) is the sanctioning entity for the sport.

However, the United Kennel Club (UKC) also holds Nose Work events. Having more ways to participate is wonderful, since it can be difficult to find events that are close to all of us in Florida.

How do K9 Nose Work events work?


You and your pup can participate in Nose Work events right here at Doglando, and we’re sure you’ll want to progress once your dog gets his or her first sniff!

Before moving on to trials, each dog has to participate in an ORT (Odor Recognition Test.) The purpose is to prove that your dog knows each odor they will be searching for, and that each team has actually put in the work to train. This way, no one wastes their time come trial day.

How the Odor Recognition Test works

For an ORT (and really any trial/event), you are asked to keep your dog crated in your vehicle and only let them go outside to potty. Because Nose Work is a sport that is very inviting of all dogs no matter their size, breed, age, and temperament, you do see many dogs that are reactive to other dogs and/or people. And that’s okay! Dogs aren’t required to come into contact with anyone other than their own handler. This puts less pressure on these reactive dogs, which allows them to be able to excel in this sport.

As might be expected in this wonderful community, participants are very respectful of other dogs’ space. At most events red bandanas will be passed out, and dogs with reactivity issues can sport them fashionably all day.  This signal helps teams stay vigilant about ensuring adequate space is given so that no one crosses any dog’s tolerance threshold.

If you want to focus on managing your dog on-leash without worrying about other dogs, you can request a red bandana. It’s a great way to give your dog every chance at success.

After getting your pup ready and calming your own nerves, it’s go time. You’ll be assigned a spot and will have to wait your turn. If you’re lucky there will be practice boxes outside that give you a chance to get some last minute practice in and to warm up before what’s about to happen. Most participants opt to get a practice session in if it’s available, but it’s certainly not mandatory.

When it’s go-time, the test happens very quickly. In order to pass, your dog has 3 minutes to find the odor once his nose passes the start line. As the handler it’s your job to read your dog and then let the judges know when he found the odor by saying, “Alert.”

How to find K9 Nose Work Events


Our Orlando-based readers are in luck, because Doglando will be hosting K9 Nose Work trials on December 3rd and 4th, 2016.

If you don’t feel ready to compete with your pup, you can still volunteer. Volunteers make these events possible, and you’ll learn a ton in the process. You might even feel more confident competing the next time around. And, competitors can volunteer, too! Volunteer on the day you aren’t competing to keep the fun times going while helping your fellow competitors have a great experience.

Not in the Orlando area, or the December dates don’t work for you? Just head here to find a K9 Nose Work event near you.

Have you ever competed in K9 Nose Work, or any other sport, with your dog? If you have, don’t forget to leave a comment about your experience so that other dog lovers can learn more! If you haven’t participated in dog sports before, would you like to give them a go?