Scent Work for Dogs

Scent Work for Dogs is Great Training for Any Dog

Besides unfailing loyalty, unconditional love and the comfort of a warm, furry companion, what more can a dog give us? If all the foregoing were not enough, dogs do amazing things with their noses for our benefit.  Most folks already know that a dog has a keen sense of smell, but did you know that a dog interprets his world through their noses the way humans do with their eyes? Let’s compare a dog’s nose with a human nose. In structure alone, a dog has 60 square inches of smelling area in his “sniffer”; we humans have only 1 square inch!  While the area of a dog’s odor analyzers varies from breed to breed, just to compare, a human has 5 million scent receptors in that 1 square inch; the bloodhound has 300 million.  Not only that, the dog’s brain is designed to interpret odors 10,000 times better than that of a human.   No wonder dogs live in a world of smells!

We have become so dependent on the dog’s scenting ability that we sometimes fail to appreciate, or simply do not know, how much a dog can do.  We hear more and more about how dogs perform amazing feats of detection for our military and police.  They can smell the faintest odor from narcotics, bombs and fugitives, and locate them with pinpoint accuracy. They use their scenting skills in the search and rescue of missing people. Their amazing scenting ability can detect cancer cells and warn against impending seizures.  Now, enter a new way to harness the dog’s scenting skill – Scent Work for Dogs!

This new sport is fast becoming a favorite among dog owners. Evolving from the detection work for which some dogs are already highly skilled, this activity is a natural way to create a bond between dog and owner in a very entertaining way. There is even a group called the National Organization of Canine Scent Work (NACSW) that offers competitive events around the country. Any dog, from the tiniest to the giants, can participate. It is beneficial to have the dog trained on simple commands like “sit” and “stay” before beginning the scenting process.

To get started, the basics are pretty simple. You just need to harness and direct your dog’s natural instincts.  Since dogs can already sniff and pick up scents from plants, dirt, a trail, objects and the air, you just need channel this capability with some of his favorite rewards or treats. Pick an area in which to work such as a large room in your home or an open field. The idea is to create a trail of the treats, (hotdogs and cheese almost always get a good response), and reward him when he follows the trail.  There are a number of different approaches to this training, but the ultimate goal is to create a great game of “hide and seek” for your dog and a rewarding, shared experience for both of you.

Scent work for dogsThis “fun” application of a dog’s scenting or sniffing ability is catching on so quickly that in only a few years, there are almost 5000 registered dogs with the NACSW and almost 3500 have passed the Odor Recognition Test (ORT) across the United States and Canada.

If you are interested in learning more about scent work, Highland Canine Training can help prepare you and your dog for an ORT and help you to get him trained either for leisure or for competition.  If your dog has the drive and personality, you may even consider evaluating him for more focused detection work or search and rescue.  In either case, we at Highland Canine Training, LLC are experts at training your dog for scenting, detection, search and rescue, or any other performance specialty from the basics to advanced.  If you are interested in learning more about scent work for dogs or becoming a professional dog trainer, we have a variety of programs to fit your individual needs.  If you have questions about our programs or courses, feel free to call us at 866.200.2207 or email


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