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The Hounds Try: Nose Work (And Earn a Title!)

Since I plan to try out all sorts of new and different sports and activities with my whippet, I decided I will try to chronicle them in a way that might be useful for other beginners. I will add updates to these posts if I learn anything else that is new or helpful and, as always, please feel free to share your own tips and tricks in the comments! So far, I’ve written about conformationagility, and barn hunt. We’ve been learning and practicing nose work (also called scent detection) on and off since last summer and finally felt ready for a trial.

We entered Level 1 in a C-WAGS scent trial and, amazingly, Mars managed qualifying scores in 4/4 of his runs and earned his first title in just one morning. We had a lot of fun and can’t wait for our next trial and trying Level 2.


What Is It?

  • Dogs use their sense of smell to detect specific odours hidden in boxes, objects, and/or environments and alert their handler when they find what they are searching for. Depending on the level and organization, there may be zero, one, or multiple “hides” to find.
  • Handlers go in “blind” (without knowing where the odours are hidden), and must rely on their dog to alert them accurately and within a set period of time.

What I Love About It: 

  • With good fundamentals, dogs can learn this sport quickly and it is amazing how fast they can learn to find new odours and check different objects/environments.
  • You need to trust your dog!
  • It provides a great outlet for the dog’s natural instincts. It works their mind but is low intensity for their bodies – a great complementary activity for dogs who do physically demanding sports.
  • Beginner classes can vary in price, but the equipment you need is fairly minimal compared to many other sports (e.g. harness and leash you may already own, a few scent kits which can sometimes be ordered in bulk and purchased with your classmates, and cheap objects and plastic boxes). I spent less than $15 on plastic tubs and use my recycling for additional objects before I put them out.

What I Don’t Love About It:

  • …So far, I love everything about it! Really!

Beginner Tips and Tricks: 

  • Invest in a set of classes with an experienced trainer so you can get started quickly and confidently. After that, you can decide to watch/read tips online and practice on your own if you’d prefer. I’ve decided to continue training on my own for now but participate in practices whenever they are available.
  • Read the rules and ask lots of questions!

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