Sport and Canine Activities

Scent Work For Dogs

Scent Work For Dogs - nose work

Did you know that a dog’s nose is at least 10,000 times more powerful than our own?! It’s pretty intense. Additionally, most dogs find sniffing things to be a very relaxing and enjoyable experience. This makes scent work a great activity for your dog to engage in. It can be great mental and physical exercise.

What Is Nose Work For Dogs?

You know how the military and police will use dogs to find bombs, drugs, and other things? The dogs use their sense of smell to find the items in question. Then, of course, there are search and rescue dogs that find people using their sense of smell. There are also dogs that use their sense of smell in the medical realm. Like dogs who detect cancers, low blood sugar, oncoming seizures, and the like. This all counts as nose work.

Nose work doesn’t always have to so serious, however. Nose work can be useful to you, like having your dog find your keys or phone by using his nose to sniff it out. Nose work doesn’t have to have that much of a purpose either and can be just for fun!

This is all considered scent or nose work. Some people will make a distinction between scent work and nose work. Typically, scent work is considered the more serious work of the military, police, and search and rescue dogs. On the other hand, nose work is more often used to describe your dog using his nose for fun.

Nose work is a little different than a lot of canine sports. In many canine sports like agility, herding, and canine freestyle the handler is in command. However, with scent work, the handler must rely on the dog’s sense of smell and follow his lead.

Who Can Do Nose Work?

Scent work can be an excellent thing to engage in for any dog. Dogs of any age, breed, or mixed breed can participate. Even reactive dogs can participate in the majority of scent trials. Additionally, there is no prior training required for a dog to do well in nose work.

On the other hand, if you desire to get more serious with scent work and train your dog to do search and rescue, drug detection, bomb detection, or be a medical sniffer you will likely want to do more training.

Benefits Of Nose Work

There are many benefits that your dog will experience with nose work:

  • Mental and physical stimulation: If your dog is more worn out mentally and physically he will be a better behaved, happier, and healthier dog.
  • Can help an anxious dog: Almost all dogs find sniffing to be relaxing. Any relaxation that you can offer an anxious dog is helpful for their overall wellbeing.
  • Builds confidence: As your dog moves through new environments looking for a scent it will help to build his confidence in strange environments.
  • Give your dog a job: most dogs thrive when given a job. This is especially true for herding dogs, working breeds, and sporting breeds like the Golden Retriever. They like to feel useful and use their natural gifts to help us, humans.
  • It is fun and rewarding for your dog: As your dog sniffs out the scent he will have fun hunting for the scent. The dog is then praised and rewarded for his efforts.

Can I Earn Titles?

Yes, there are several titles that you can earn for a few different organizations. Look up an organization near you to find out more about the titles they offer.

Can I do Nose Work At Home?

Even if you do not want to do nose work to earn titles or detect bombs, you can still reap the benefits of doing nose work at home. It is a good idea to start inside where your dog will have fewer distractions. After he gets good at it you can move outside for your scent work.

You can utilize scent work in the form of games for your dog. Try hiding treats in a room and have your dog find them. You can also send your dog to find other people in the house and he gets a treat for finding them. You can work to train your dog to find items that smell like you in a pile of similar items. Like finding your car keys or your phone.


Scent work can be great fun for you and your dog. It is excellent mental and physical stimulation for your dog and can add purpose to your dog’s life. Additionally, any dog is welcome to do nose work. Any breed, size, shape, level of training, level of reactivity, or anxiety can participate in nose work. So, don’t hesitate, try some nose work fun today!