Scenting Canine Sports: Learning About K9 Nose Work

Posted by Amber King
dog sniffing bag during K9 Nose Work competition
All images via Facebook/K9 Nose Work

In the professional world of law enforcement, dogs have long since been used for their incredible scent detection ability.

Breeds including Bloodhounds, German Short Haired Pointers, and Labrador Retrievers are enlisted by police departments to put their noses to work. They sniff out bad guys, victims, bombs, drugs, and even bodily fluids all in the name of a good day's work.

But K9 Nose Work gives amateur sniffers a chance to shine.

What is K9 Nose Work?

dog sniffing during K9 Nose Work trial

K9 Nose Work was developed to give regular pets an opportunity to show off their sniffers. As with agility, flyball, and dock jumping, dogs compete in organized trials after being introduced to the activity by their owners.

These are timed searches performed in real-world settings that test four separate elements of the competition: container, interior, exterior, and vehicle. The dogs must identify specific scents and locate them in pre-staged environments.

Getting Started

odor recognition test

Most dogs start with local classes taught by certified Nose Work Instructors. K9 Nose Work founders also offer a series of workshops that start with the basics in scent detection and then progress to more advanced skills. As the dog learns and develops his skill, he's then invited to take an Odor Recognition Test.

The test involves searching 12 identical boxes, one of which contains an odor. For level one (NW1) trials, that odor is birch. During the trial, the dog isn't the only one being tested. The owner doesn't know which box holds the scent, and they must be able to correctly recognize the dog's signal when they find the right box.

Moving Up

dog licking snout

After passing the Odor Recognition Test, canine/owner teams are eligible to compete in NW1 trials. For this level, competitors are expected to seek the exact source of an odor and complete the four elements in one day.

For NW2, the dogs move on to detecting multiple "hides" in one environment. The odors are less accessible than in NW1, and food and toy distractions may also be used. Once a dog reaches NW3, they're at the professional level of competition. They should be able to find an unknown number of hides in an environment and find well-hidden odors at various heights and in different kinds of containment. They must overcome distractions and stay focused during long searches that routinely reach the 15-minute mark.

K9 Nose Work is designed to enhance the relationship between dog and owner and provide a constructive outlet to exercise body and mind. Unlike other canine sports, it's an activity that depends heavily on the environment. Every trial is different, and competitors must learn to be flexible with what the environment provides. Owner and dog must work as a team to understand and observe, and the bond that's formed is more rewarding than any trophy.

Learn more about how to get your dog started with K9 Nose Work by visiting the official website.

All images via Facebook/K9 Nose Work

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Scenting Canine Sports: Learning About K9 Nose Work