More about Scent Work

Odor Search & Handler Discrimination

There are two divisions of AKC Scent Work.  One is for Odor Search (one or more of the essential oils) and the other, Handler Discrimination.  The dog will search for the scent of his handler.


Scent Work Searches are performed in a different environments, called Elements.  The elements are:

  • Container – target odor is concealed within a container such as a cardboard box
  • Interior – target odor is within a container in an indoor search area
  • Exterior – target odor is concealed on or in an object in an outdoor search area requiring that a dog locate the scent while coping with weather conditions, distractions and different airflow patterns
  • Buried – target odor is concealed in a mall container and buried under the ground.

Four Levels of Scent Work

There are four levels for both Handler Discrimination and Odor Search.  You may work at different levels in each of those two categories.  The levels are:

  • Novice
  • Advanced
  • Excellent
  • Master

The levels of difficulty are changed by the size of the search area, the number of hides, handler knowledge of where the hides are, or the height of the hides.  The most difficult class is the Detective Class which is intended to emulate the work of Detection Dogs.

In Scent Work is you either qualify or don’t qualify.  Dogs are to use their nose to find the hidden odors and alert by paw, bark, point, lid down, sit or other behavior to let their handler know the location.  The handler lets the judge know when the dog finds the scent.  In order to qualify, the handler/dog team must find all hides in the search area, staying within a time allowed without committing non-qualifying faults.  The top four teams are ranked 1st through 4th based on the lowest number of faults, and then their time.

Find or Enter a Scent Work Trial

To find a Scent Work Trial in your area, search the AKC Events Calendar.  Scent Work trials will have a premium list with all relevant information, including an official entry form.  The entry form will be sent to the trial secretary who in turn will send a judging program back to you.

This is a sport that you can learn at home, but you do need to learn the rules and regulations. For more detailed information, visit the American Kennel Club website, and read and learn the AKC Scent Work Regulations.  You can also find training resource ages on the AKC website as well.

Happy Scenting!