Nose work is a fun sport that mimics what working detection dogs do in the field searching for illegal drugs, explosives, and more. It is an activity that allows dogs to use one of their best senses, smell.

The percentage of the dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is 40 times larger than that of a human, having more than 100 million sensory receptor sites in the nasal cavity as compared to 6 million in people. It is estimated that their capability of smell is anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times better than ours. That is the reason dogs explore the world through their noses.

The sport of nose work uses these natural abilities, teaching the dogs to search for specific essential oils, such as Birch, Anise, and Clove in different environments. At trials, dogs are required to search in the elements of containers, interiors, exteriors, vehicles and buried. Each element grows in difficulty as the dog’s skills get better finding the hide with target odor.

Can any dog train for Nose Work? 

Yes!! the beauty of this sport is that any dog can do it. It is a sport for ALL dogs and ideal for dogs needing more confidence, senior dogs, young dogs with energy that need a job, reactive dogs, etc. 

This sport builds up confidence and focus, providing lots of mental stimulation, thanks to them using their nose in the game. Every time they sniff, they feel good. Sniffing for dogs is self-soothing and can lower anxiety. So, the simple act of sniffing can physically reduce a dog’s anxiety or discomfort. 

How can I start training my dog in this sport?

In my classes, we start searching with what our dogs find motivating… food. 
We set up different games and spaces where the dogs use their nose to find where the delicious treats are located. While finding food, our dogs are learning to work independently, confidently, and motivated in different environments. We start with easy puzzles and after a couple of classes, we progress in levels of difficulty and environments, where the dog is motivated to continue searching for the delicious reward. Once dogs are confident in their hunt for treats, we imprint them in their first target odor, Birch.

You can set up an easy game at home by placing some treats in plain sight in a small area of your house. After a few times, make the game a bit harder and place the treats not that visible for your dog. Beside the sofa or under the table are great hide placements. Remember to have your dog in a different room (no peeking) before you set up your scent puzzle.

Also, dogs have different tastes and have different liking just like us humans, so try different options of treats with your dog and keep a variety for training. You can start training indoors and then move the game outdoors slowly, bringing some natural distractions into it.

For more information check my upcoming classes at

By: Lorena Patron