K9 nosework is the newest competitive dog sport – and the fastest growing, since it permits blind, deaf, and mobility challenged (paraplegic and tripod) dogs to compete, as well as dogs who are shy or reactive. It was originally codified in the mid-2000’s by the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW), led by the founding scent-detection dog trainers Ron Gaunt, Amy Herot, and Jill-Marie O’Brien. Their goal: to bring the fun and challenge of scent detection to companion/sport dogs based on the work done by professional, military, and law enforcement K9s.

Dogs are encouraged to develop their natural scent-directed hunt drive to search for q-tips scented with a small amount of essential oil of birch, anise, and clove – alone or in combination – hidden in containers, vehicles, interior spaces, and the great outdoors.  This is a sport where the dog is allowed to be a dog and do what dogs love to do best – find things by scent.  We are, as one competitor states “refining the natural abilities” of the dog, not “training” him; it is the handler who learns to observe and understand the subtle communication given by the dog when he searches for and finds the target odor.  Best of all, no dog-training experience is necessary for the handler, and no prior dog obedience training is necessary for the dog.

For those interested in competition, regional trials are held in most parts of the country, judged by scent-detection professional handlers. Any breed and any age of dog (and handler) is capable of performing at the highest level. Much like the dog agility world 25-30 years ago, other dog sport organizations (UKC/United States Nosework Association, AKC, CKC) are jumping on the bandwagon to create slightly different venues and rules for scent work competition; but for now, NACSW remains its only sanctioning & organizing body.