Copper and I recently starting training to compete in AKC Scent Work. As a Bassett mix, one of Copper’s challenges is to stop sniffing and pay attention, so I’m excited to give him a reason to use that nose!

What is AKC Scent Work?

This what AKC has to say about Scent Work:

Dogs have a sense of smell that’s between 10,000 and 100,000 times more acute than ours! The sport of Scent Work celebrates the joy of sniffing, and asks a dog to sniff to their heart’s content; turning your dog’s favorite activity into a rewarding game. It is a terrific sport for all kinds of dogs, and is a wonderful way to build confidence in a shy dog.

In AKC Scent Work, we teach our dogs to search for and to alert on cotton swabs saturated with the essential oils of Birch, Anise, Clove, and Cypress.

In competition, neither the dog nor the handler know where the scents are hidden. They enter a pre-determined search area and look for the scents.

Depending on the type of competition, the scents can be hidden in containers or buried, inside or outdoors. The number of scents depends on the level of difficulty (Novice, Advanced, Excellent, and Master).

There is also a division for scent discrimination where the dog searches for the smell of the handler. Copper and I are focusing on odor detection, at least for the time being.

What We’re Learning

We’re currently attending a Scent Work class on Tuesday evenings at ThunderHawk Canine. The guest instructor Maria Ruoto is an experience Scent Work competitor.

We’ve only had a couple of classes so far. We’re focusing on teaching the dogs that detecting the birch scent is the best thing ever! (Lot of treats)

They’re also learning that the scent could be anywhere and that there are containers that don’t have scents.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the progress the dogs will make during the session. The class that started in the previous session already has the skills to go for their Container Novice (SCN) titles.

Our Scent Work Goals

One of Copper’s biggest struggles in Rally is sniffing. He’s a Bassett mix and has a pretty strong sniffer.

I have two main goals for us in doing Scent Work. First, I want him to have a clear understanding of when it is and isn’t ok to work that nose.

My second goal is to challenge him with a sport that builds his confidence. He’s a naturally anxious dog, and while obedience has built his confidence, he still struggles when he isn’t right beside me.

AKC Scent Work Class

Since Copper is only three and one leg away from his Rally Excellent title, I think now is a great time for us to add a new sport to our skillset. Once we earn our Rally Champion (RACH), we can shift focus to Scent Work trials.

We’re really excited to try out this new sport. Interested but don’t know where to start? Drop me a comment, and let’s talk!

Tanya Garrett

Tanya is an avid supporter of dog rescues. She has had adopted dogs her entire adult life and can think of nothing more fulfilling than helping a rescue dog become a good citizen. She competes in AKC Rally Obedience and IWPA Weight Pull with two of her All American Dogs (registered with the AKC Canine Partners Program). She hopes to add AKC Scent Work and Tracking to that list too!

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