Scent work (also known as scent detection or nosework) is a dog sport created to mimic professional detection dog tasks.  One dog and one handler form a team.  The dogs must find a hidden target odour, often ignoring distractions (such as food or toys), and alert the handler.  After the dog finds the odour, they are rewarded with a food or a toy.

Starting Nosework (or Scent) Training

by Michelle Fleming

There are five metal bowls - each has holes in the bottom and a container that will fasten underneath, and these are placed in a custom-made long wooden rack.  We put one of the scents in the container under one of the bowls, and replace the bowl in the wooden rack.

The dog then has to sniff each of the five bowls and when they sniff the one with the scent and they “Stay” on it - we reward with treats, which fall naturally into the bowl, also giving the dog another good whiff of the scent.

We try to distract by tapping on other bowls that do not have a scent and when the dog returns time and again to the bowl with the scent, we reward generously.

Also, we flip around the bowls, moving them from one location to another, trying to be sure the dog does not just always head for the middle bowl, or any one bowl.

This can also progress to putting a food distraction in one of the containers under the bowls, same as you would have in a Nosework Trial.  If the dog knows that it is not the scent they are looking for, and they move along to the bowl with the scent - we praise and reward.  Food and toy distractions are used in varying degrees in Nosework Trial set-ups.

Video by Michelle Fleming featuring her puppy Ziff.