Discover K9 Nose Work®

K9 Nose Work: A new way to exercise your dog — physically and mentally

Dogs have amazing noses and they love to use them. You’ll see them in the field tracking prey, in airports searching for smuggled goods, or on television sniffing for bombs. But how often do you see pet dogs using their scenting skills for exercise and entertainment?

We’re working to change that.

Now you and your dog can enjoy a new way to have fun together, anytime, anywhere. K9 Nose Work® is one of the hottest new trends in dog training, teaching pet dogs to recognize and search for specific scents and teaching you to better understand how your dog communicates with you.

Thanks to three professional canine detection trainers in Southern California who developed the sport of K9 Nose Work® in 2006, you can take classes and workshops and compete in trials all across the country.

Palo Alto Dog Training is proud to be a K9 Nose Work® resource for dog lovers throughout the San Francisco Peninsula who want a new way to keep their dogs calmer, mentally stimulated and content.

Why teach a dog to use his nose?

When you teach your dog to use his nose, you’re putting his natural instincts to work and rewarding him for this awesome behavior. Canine scenting games give dogs a great opportunity for problem solving, being in control and enjoying success. These games have helped shy dogs gain confidence, anxious dogs worry less, rambunctious dogs focus and active dogs settle down. And, most importantly, they are tons of fun!

What kind of dogs benefit from nose work?

Every dog can learn scent detection activities without prior behavioral training! Dogs don’t need to be physically active. In fact, dogs that are disabled or recovering from an illness or injury will have as much fun with scent recognition as active ones. Even easily distracted dogs enjoy the challenge of a search.

Canine scenting games can burn a lot of mental energy, so your dog will be as tired after playing as if she’d taken a long walk. It’s a great way to keep dogs amused and exercised on rainy days or when you’re too tired to get out.

Find out why so many people and dogs love Nose Work.

How long does it take to train a dog to master nose work?

With nose work, your dog can be successful from the first class. All dogs possess enormous talent when it comes to recognizing and finding odor. Our classes tap into your dog’s natural instincts. Once we build her desire to seek the scents, she’ll sense the importance of the work and ignore everything else in her environment. Building this motivation may happen faster for some dogs than others.

We start with the basics, rewarding your dog for finding a favorite toy or food treat in a search box close by, and then move on to less obvious hiding places. Advanced nose work involves finding the scent of anise, birch or clove, in multiple locations. As training proceeds, you, the handler, learn to recognize when your dog is signaling that she’s on the right track.

You’ll work at a pace that allows your dog to enjoy success every time she does a search, so she develops a sense of confidence and excitement about the game. Over time, your dog will learn to solve complex odor problems independently. You’ll be amazed as you watch your dog become increasingly adept at scent detection. Best of all, with an endless number of scent puzzles to solve, nose work activities can continue for the rest of your dog’s life.

You can learn about our full range of classes here.

What equipment do I need for K9 Nose Work?

To start, all you really need are some yummy treats or a toy, a few cardboard boxes and your dog’s leash. As you progress, you will need a few essential oils (birch, anise and clove), cotton swabs to hold the scent, and small containers to store the scented swabs.

How many dogs are in a class?

We limit our classes to four to six dogs, depending on location. However, we work with one dog at a time. When a dog is searching, they are hunting. Most dogs, even well-socialized ones, are uncomfortable with canine competition while hunting. Your dog will search better and have more fun because she gets to work (search) alone.

In between your dog’s search exercises, she will need to be in her crate or in your car. (She’ll be tired out and benefit from a good nap.)

What size space is required for nose work?

Your dog can learn to search for scents in a variety of locations and situations. You can limit your games to a single cardboard box hidden somewhere in your living room. 
As you progress, you can learn to cover your entire back yard or even a neighborhood park. Over time, your dog can learn to search for scent:

  • In containers
  • Inside a home or building
  • Outside a home or building
  • Around vehicles (unlike “real” drug dogs, we don’t search inside vehicles)

Can a pet dog compete in K9 Nose Work® trials?

Today hundreds of dogs and their human partners compete in K9 Nose Work® trials across the country. The sport is regulated by the National Association of Canine Scent Work® (NACSW), an agency that works to ensure consistency and the highest standard of excellence for competitors who want to take the sport to the next level. Currently there are four levels of competition: NW1, NW2, NW3 and Elite. Dogs as young as 6 months can compete.

The NACSW is also the certification agency for all K9 Nose Work trainers.