Scent Detection

Scent detection is a dog sport which has really taken off in the last few years. Though many of us think of dogs detecting illicit drugs and other illegal items, as a sport you and your dog are asked to find specific essential oils hidden in a variety of places. Nosework is intended to mimic these professional skills in a non-illegal way! It is a fun sport that costs very little to get into and is easy to practice at home.

The best part of nosework is that it uses a dog’s strongest instincts to do something fun. Dog and handler must work as a team here. The dog will naturally find and alert to an odour once trained (and practiced!) but as the handler you must learn to really watch your dog and read his/her body language well enough to know when the correct item has been found.

Each club, or governing body, sets their own rules about which scents can be used and at what heights. As one moves up in levels more than one odour may be present and the hides get tougher.

Scent Detection, or nosework, comes in many other forms as well. If your PWD enjoys using its nose there are several other sports that would fall into the nosework category. Tracking and Mantrailing/Manhunt ask your dog to follow a set trail for a distance to find ‘lost’ items or people. The events offered by the North American Sport Dogs Association (NASDA) are also forms of nosework and include looking for shed antlers, critters (pet rodents), or lost personal items.

Interesting fact; did you know that one of the search and rescue dogs at the 911 World Trade Center disaster was a Portuguese Water Dog? This heroic PWD was one of the few trained to find both the living and the deceased.

Getting Started

There are several organizations in Alberta that hold nosework trials. The Sporting Detection Dogs Association (SDDA) was the first Canadian sanctioning body for nosework. Trials are also held through CKC clubs, UKC clubs, and CWAGS.


Trials are currently so popular that they are difficult to get into so pick a club, become a member and then keep your eyes peeled for those trials!

For variety, check out;

NASDA – shed antlers, lost items, trail and locate (gerbils)

Mantrailing Canada