Also called ‘scent work’, nose work is a fun professional dog sport similar to search and rescue or canine TSA detection work; however, our dogs are trained to search for birch, anise, and clove essential oils. Trials are held to challenge dog and handler teams to locate these odors in a variety of staged search areas including interior and exterior spaces, the exterior of vehicles, and in a variety of containers.
Teams must accurately locate all hidden odors in all search areas to ‘Title’ and move on to the next level of nose work trials, where search areas expand, hide placement is more challenging, search times are lowered, and the potential number of hides increase.
The sport hones in on the dog’s natural ability to locate things with their nose and builds a strong bond between the dog and handler.
NACSW is an organization that sets the standard for the sport of canine scent work, aka nose work. There are other organizations, but NACSW was the first. All COs, judges, and score room workers are thoroughly trained, tested, and vetted to ensure the highest standard of excellence.
Learn more about NACSW by visiting their website at www.nacsw.net.
Search areas mimic real-world detection work scenarios where they'll search interior spaces (such as a classroom), exterior spaces (such as a grassy or picnic area), the exterior of vehicles, and a variety of containers. These are referred to as 'elements'.
Dogs are trained to search for birch, anise, and clove essential oils. Oils are placed on q-tips which are then placed in a small container about the size of lip balm. The container is hidden completely out of sight and can be placed inside an object or attached through magnets, hooks, or museum putty. Care is always taken to ensure objects are not damaged.
Dog and handler teams progress through nose work over time. The higher the level, additional search areas are added, search area size increases, hide complexity goes up, and a greater number of hides can be hidden in each search area.
All dogs start with an Odor Recognition Test (ORT). The purpose of this test is to prove that your dog can locate birch, anise, and clove, and the handler can accurately read their dog to indicate the odor's location.
After passing all three ORTs (one for each odor), they move on to NW1. NW1 includes four search areas - interiors, exteriors, containers, and vehicles. Each search area will have one hide.
Next is NW2. NW2 includes the same four search areas, plus one additional search area will be added. The additional search area will be another interior, exterior, container, or vehicle search. In NW2, there can be anywhere from 1-3 hides and the handler knows how many are in each search area.
On to NW3. NW3 adds complexity by adding two additional search areas that can have anywhere from 0-3 hides, and this time the handler doesn't know how many hides are in each search area. And yes, there can be blank search areas (zero hides). Yikes!
After passing three NW3 trials, teams move on to Elite. Search areas are no longer constrained to the aforementioned elements and a greater number of hides are placed in each search area.
Learning nose work and getting to competition-level is hard work. Dog and handler teams spend years training and practicing in new and interesting areas to prepare and progress in trials.
These dogs are highly trained and well behaved. Handlers are grateful for trials and are respectful of the space.
Only one dog and handler team is ever searching in an area at one time.
Poop bags and trashcans are provided by the trial host and workers comb the potty area to ensure no poop is left behind.
The number of search areas required depends on the trial level and the number of days requested. Trials typically span over a weekend where Saturday is one level trial and Sunday is another. Search areas cannot be reused, as odor may still be lingering from a previous search.
NW1-NW3 trials must have a minimum of one search area for each of the four elements - interior, exterior, containers, and vehicles. NW2 trials must include one additional search area and NW3 trials have two additional search areas.
Trials can have up to 50 teams competing, plus approximately 15 workers. Competitors must be parked in a centralized area, such as in a parking lot or field, and cannot have line-of-site to any of the search areas. Workers can be parked anywhere.
A potty area must be located next to the parking area. Trashcans and poop bags are provided, and workers will comb the area after the trial to ensure no poop is left behind.
Additional requirements can be discussed.