Scent training, or nose-work, as it’s called in the dog sports is a super fun activity for any dog of any age. Laying the foundations to this skill takes a little dedication, but it’s a pretty easy skill for any dog that loves something… like food or toys. The key is to associate the smell with the object the dog likes.

I want to be clear, I don’t do nosework, so what you’re learning here is my methodology to teaching scents. This is more in line with what a k9 would do to detect explosives or drugs. It can be modified for any scent detection including nosework, mondio ring – little woods, akc articles or anything else. Easy change over, just learn the basics.

The easiest way for you to understand your dog’s sense of smell is to imagine that your dog smells like you see. So, for example, I rub a little scent (say my hand, olive oil, oregano…anything) onto the object, your dog will “see” that scent with his nose. In fact his nose is MUCH more powerful than your eyes. But think about it, if I rubbed a little bit of red paint on a white napkin and put it in a pile with other white napkins, how hard would it be for you to pick out the right one? Pretty easy, right? That’s what I want you to think about… Now, let’s get started with our dogs.

The key thing to this task will be teaching our dogs how to “tell us” that they’ve found the right object.

There are other video lessons on scent training and I will continue to add more. The basics can be grabbed from any or all of the lessons. As you see me doing it more and more, it will become clearer to you how to teach it.


Keywords for this lesson: scent training, scent, nose work, nosework, little woods, articles, utility, detection

The basics for teaching scent detection:

  1. This is most easiest done with a dog who is higher in drive, or at least a dog who really loves treats or toys. This will be your reward for him / her indicating the right article.
  2. Start with 2 articles, I like wooden dowels. They are different from anything that the dog has seen before, they’re cheap and easy to get anywhere.
  3. ALWAYS start with a completely new set. Never used, cut from one piece. Keep the one that will have the scent separate from the others. Think a zip lock bag.
  4. I like to use tongs if I’m working alone so that I don’t contaminate the neutral ones.
  5. Put the scent on one of the dowels, put it on the ground and place another one a few feet away. When the dog’s nose touches that dowel, throw the treat onto the dowel or close by. You can mark it with a YES, but the treat alone should be reward enough. If the dog is a little flat, get excited and praise abundantly.
  6. You want the dog to focus on the scent. Using too much praise will take the dog’s attention off of the odor and move it to you. This will not work if the dog is working in a serious capacity. In sports, it’s fine.
  7. Once the dog gets the game with 2 dowels, add a third.
  8. Right now I don’t want him picking anything up, just indicating. You can add a retrieve later – easy to do.
  9. Watch the lesson for tons more tips and tricks.

You’re gonna have a great time teaching your dog / puppy this game!

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Lesson Includes

  • 1 Video Lesson