Canine Training

K9 NOSE WORK® – The Sport of Scent Detection

(Click here for information about Canine Nose Work Classes.)

What is K9 Nose Work®? Simply stated, it’s teaching nose work (scent detection) from the working,or detection, dog perspective for the pet dog. Whereas detection dogs sniff out drugs, bombs, and illegal fruits and vegetables, nose work dogs sniff out scents like anise, clove, and birch.

Dogs have an amazing sense of smell and a natural desire to hunt. The activity and sport of K9 Nose Work® is designed to develop your dog’s natural scenting abilities by using their desire to hunt and their love of toys, food, and exercise. It’s a great way for your dog to have fun, build confidence, and burn lots of mental and physical energy.

What are the benefits of K9 Nose Work®? For the dog, the benefits include increased confidence, a “job” to do, fun with their human, and a positive outlet for pent up energy. For the human, the benefits include a tired dog at the end of a session (mental activity is about four times more tiring to a dog than physical exertion), a strengthened bond between the human and dog, and, of course, titles.

Who can participate in K9 Nose Work®? Any person and any dog! That’s what so great about nose work – it’s completely accessible to all dogs and all humans. No previous training experience is needed.

During classes and trials, all dogs work the search area alone and usually on leash, while the nonworking dogs remain crated. This means that even dog reactive dogs can participate, which is a great confidence booster for them. Even differently-abled dogs and humans can enjoy this sport, making it great for blind and deaf dogs, humans who use wheel chairs, etc. It’s easy to understand why K9 Nose Work® is the sport of choice for rescue dogs.

What about competitions and titling? Human/dogs teams can currently earn titles through the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW) and will soon be able to title in Nose Work in both the UKC and the AKC. There are many NACSW titling events held every year in the Northern Illinois area.

Is K9 Nose Work® the same as Tracking? No, they are different sports. Nose Work teaches the dog to find a scented object, while Tracking teaches the dog to follow a scent trail lay down by a person to an article at the end. Nose work environments tend to be indoors or limited to a specific outdoor area like a vehicle or small yard whereas tracking is mainly in large, outdoor spaces.

What equipment is needed? A flat buckle collar or harness (no pinch or chain collars), a six-foot leash, high value treats and/or toys, a treat pouch or bag, and a hungry, motivated dog.

What more information? You can check out the National Association of Canine Scent Work online at or the K9 Nose Work® page at Loretta Swanson, a Canine Nose Work instructor offers classes in Belvidere and Rockford and loves to talk about Nose Work. You can reach her at 815-520-5619 or

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