In the sport of Scent Work, a drop of an essential oil (typically birch, anise, clove or cypress) is placed on a cotton swab and hidden within a specified search area. There are different types of search areas including containers, vehicles, defined interior spaces, defined exterior spaces, and containers where the scent is buried under sand or water. Neither the dog nor the handler knows where the odor is hidden. It’s up to the dog to locate the hidden scent, and then communicate it to their handler. The handler says “alert” when they think their dog has located it. There is a judge present who will indicate whether or not it was the correct location. When a dog is new to the sport (novice), they will only need to find one hidden scent at a trial, but as they progress to higher levels, a dog will be searching for multiple hides or an undefined number of hides.
As your dog learns scent work they will develop their own way to tell you where the scent is located. Every dog is different, but common signals include sitting or lying down, freezing in place, or pawing at the find. Scent work is a fun sport that builds confidence and strengthens the bond between you and your dog. And unlike most dog sports, even elderly and handicapped dogs can participate.
Before getting started in scent work, your dog will need to know some basic commands like sit, stay, and leave it. And although scent work is generally performed on-leash, your dog should also be reasonably comfortable around other dogs.
The best way to learn scent work is to take a class. While you can find online instruction, you and your dog are more likely to have make progress quickly if you take at least an introduction to scent work class. Check out our What’s Happening page for a list of upcoming scent work classes in Brevard County. An introduction class will give you a good idea if scent work is something you and your dog might enjoy.
In addition to a harness or traditional collar, you should have a long lightweight lead (10+ feet is best) and lots of training treats!
If you start off by taking a local scent work class you will likely be provided a scent sample so that you can practice at home. Once you are ready to invest in more supplies, check out K9 NW Source, they have a good selection of starter kits and other supplies. Typical supplies include essential oils, glass jars, cotton swabs, and tweezers.
USCSS Novice Container Trial Run
There are several organizations that offer scent work trials in the U.S., including AKC, USCSS, NACSW and CPE. Each organization has different types of searches and different rules. SWCBC is an AKC club, which means that we hold AKC trials. However, our members also compete in trials held by the other organizations, and sometimes our club offers workshops that include USCSS games. You’ll find that a good number of scent work trials happen each year in central Florida.