Marin Dog Sports & Training

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K9 Nose Work  is a canine scent detection activity developed by  founders, Ron Gaunt, Amy Herot & Jill Marie O'Brien, inspired by working detection dogs.It is a fun search and scenting activity for virtually all dogs and people. This activity and sport builds confidence and focus in many dogs, and provides a safe way to keep dogs fit and healthy through mental and physical exercise.

Every search is a dramatically different & highly stimulating experience for both dog & handler, just by changing hide placement, or searching under different weather conditions. By participating in K9 Nose Work with your dog, you're giving him the freedom to express and refine his natural talents, and he's giving you a glimpse into how he "sees" the world, as you watch him "paint an odor picture".


Some of the many benefits are:

  • Dogs easily burn lots of mental & physical energy doing searches
  • Searches can be done anywhere you can take your dog
  • No prior training is required and no obedience is needed
  • In classes, dogs work one at a time and rest crated or safely in a vehicle between searches so reactive dogs can enjoy the activity, too
  • Shy or fearful dogs build confidence and overactive dogs put their energy into fun searches
  • Stronger bond between dog & handler is formed as the handler learns to observe, understand, and rely upon his dog 


K9 Nose Work starts with getting your dog excited about using his nose to seek out a favorite toy or treat reward hidden in one of several boxes, expanding the game to entire rooms, exterior areas, and vehicles. As your dog grows more confident with his nose, target odors are introduced, and competition skills are taught.

Any dog can learn K9 Nose Work. The training methodology is designed to help pet dogs tap into their hunting instinct, learn independent problem-solving skills, and to build broad and solid foundational scent detection skills that will enable them to successfully face new and greater challenges in K9 Nose Work. Building a strong foundation before introducing target odors ensures your dog will proceed with confidence and focus in a variety of "search puzzle" environments.

Throughout a dog & handler team's training, the emphasis will always be on creating learning experiences for the dog and supporting his independent problem solving, not commanding him to perform a series of tasks in a predetermined manner. K9 Nose Work is all about the dogs and all about celebrating their amazing abilities.


In K9 Nose Work, dogs learn how to search for a specific odor or odors and pinpoint the source of that odor. The target odors used in K9 Nose Work are birch, anise, and clove. Once the target odors are introduced to the dog, he will search for the odor only, find its source, then get rewarded by his handler with his favorite food or toy reward.


K9 Nose Work introduces dogs to four different search elements: container, interior, exterior, and vehicles. Dogs build their hunt drive and learn foundational search skills in all four elements. Later stages of K9 Nose Work introduce advanced detection and handling skills to teams. Dogs are exposed to a myriad of complex search scenarios, while continuing to reinforce their foundational skills.


Teams will practice searching to the competition standards set by the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW), which includes searching for blind hides (location of hide unknown to handler), searching for multiple hides in a single search area, and, at the higher levels of competition, searching for an unknown number of hides in a search area.

Odor Recognition Tests (ORT)

For those who want to compete and participate in trials, the first step is to successfully complete an Odor Recognition Test (ORT) for the specific odor - Birch, Anise, Clove.

Nose Work 1 (NW1) Title

Once your dog has successfully completed an ORT for Birch, they may earn a Nose Work 1 (NW1) title when he successfully finds the Birch odor source for four elements - container, interior, vehicle, and exterior searches.

Nose Work 2 (NW2) Title

After earning an NW1 Title and an Anise ORT your dog may go on to earn a Nose Work 2 (NW2) title by successfully finding Birch and Anise odor sources for all four elements.

Nose Work 3 (NW3) Title

After earning the NW2 Title and Clove ORT your dog may go on to earn a Nose Work 3 (NW3) title by successfully finding Birch, Anise, and Clove odor sources for all hour elements. The hides are more complex with each progressive level.

Nationals, Element Trials, and K9 Nose Work Camps

You may continue to enjoy the sport through a variety of advanced competitions and camps.



Introduction to Scenting (Level 1)

This is where your K9 Nose Work training begins. Using your dog's curiosity, desire to sniff, and love of either toys or food, you'll teach him to hunt for a treat or toy in a variety of environments, building a strong foundation for hunting for the source of the odor. Dogs are car crated (or crated outside of the search area) so that each dog searches individually.  No prerequisite training. Classes are 1 hour for 6 sessions, and may be repeated to build the foundation skills before taking the next class.

Introduction to Odor (Level 2)

Your dog will be introduced to the first odor (Birch). Pre-requisite is Introduction to Scenting.

Student starter scenting kit (jar with Birch scented swabs, tweezers, slide tin, magnet) included in class fee. Classes are 1 hour for 6 sessions, and may be repeated.

Working With Odor (Level 3)

This class will focus on continued pairing with Birch to progress towards becoming odor obedient on this initial target odor. You will continue to develop handler skills while your dog learns to solve increasing search challenges. Hides will focus on all elements required in a K9 Nose Work NW1 Trial;Container, Interior, Vehicle, and Exterior searches. Additional target odors will be introduced for dogs that are proficient on Birch. Classes are 1 hour for 6 sessions, and may be repeated.

Advanced Nose Work

This class will focus on building your dog's confidence and drive for scenting and developing your handler skills through more complex searches in a variety of off-site locations.  You and your dog will learn the skills required to be prepared for a K9 Nose Work NW1 Trial. Prerequisite is passing of "Working with Odor", a NACSW ORT on Birch, or instructor approval. Classes are 1.5 hours for 6 sessions and are repeated.

Drop-In Sessions & Run-Throughs

Periodically drop-in sessions or run-throughs are offered to provide additional training and practice.


Periodic workshops are offered to focus on specific skills or to prepare for ORTs or Trials.