Scent Work


Photo by J. Nichole Smith |

Scent work is a dog sport that is becoming increasingly popular to the average pet parent. Inspired by the work of scent detection dogs, scent work is an easy-to-learn dog sport that is fun for the dog and the handler.

How It Works

  • A scent work class should start by building your dog’s confidence and excitement about the game by having him search for a favorite reward hidden in one of several boxes.
  • The activity is self-rewarding since the dog is immediately able to eat the hidden treat or play with the hidden toy upon finding it.
  • Slowly, the game goes from a small-scale search in a few boxes to a larger-scale search in a vehicle or a large room.
  • Eventually, the dog will learn how to search for a specific odor and find the source of that odor.

The Benefits of Scent Work
There are many fantastic benefits to participating in scent work. The sport requires extensive physical and mental stimulation from the dog, making it a great way to burn off excess energy and reduce behavioral problems at home. Searches can be conducted just about anywhere, which means training and learning can happen at almost anytime.

Take It Up a Notch
Handlers that are interested in taking the sport to the next level may be interested in competition scent work, which allows dog and handler teams to search for odors in a more real-world setting. These trials can be more challenging than traditional scent work, so it is important to know your dog and the level of intensity they can handle.

Bottom Line
Scent work is fantastic for dogs that love to use their primary sense, their nose, and requires minimal prior training. Even reactive or shy dogs can participate in this sport, as dogs are released one by one. This sport is a great confidence builder and can be a great learning experience for the handler too.

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  • Michele Ploughman

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