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Scent Work

"Dogs love to sniff. Dogs love to eat and get treats. So, wouldn’t a sport that combines these two joys of life together be perfect? You bet!"

Carolyn Schaldecker & Please

The American Kennel Club held their first scent work trials in September 2017. There are many other venues that came before AKC however. UKC (United Kennel Club), NACSW (National Association of Canine Scent Work), CPE (Canine Performance Events) to name a few. Each venue is a bit different in their criteria but all embrace the dog’s natural ability to sniff and get rewarded for doing so.

So what is scentwork? Scentwork, aka nosework, is modeled on canine detection dog work. Dogs are trained to find the smell of essential oils (birch, anise, clove, cypress, myrrh and/or vetiver) placed on a q-tip and hidden out of sight of the handler. (And, of
course, the handler can’t smell that small amount of odor but dogs sure can.) In scentwork, dogs search the same types of situations canine detective dogs search – interior areas, exterior areas, vehicles, various types of containers, and, to emulate
cadaver searching, odor q-tips placed in tubs of sand or water. Food, toys and other distractors are often used in searches, which the dogs must ignore – the only thing that earns that cookie is odor.


The biggest difference with scentwork/nosework from many of
the other companion and performance activities is the dog leads the way, not the human. The handler is 100% reliant on the dog telling them where the odor is. It is a sport that is easy on the dog’s body but challenges its mind and decision-making skills.

A sport that dogs of all ages, young to old, can participate in without putting physical stress on their body (same for handlers!).

In the novice level, the dog must find just one hide in a search. After novice, the complexity begins and multiple hides are placed as the teams move up to more advanced levels. Sometimes the handler knows how many hides are in a search, sometimes that number is unknown. The dog has to work out the complexity of the various odors he/she is receiving and tell the handler about every hide that was placed within the specified time allowed for that search. The handler’s job is to learn to read the dog’s body language and understand when the dog is giving its “alert” that odor has been sourced, and to ensure the dog covers the search area. And to give that cookie!


This back and forth between the dog hunting, finding and communicating, and the handler trusting and accurately reading the dog’s behavior so that the cookie is given, creates a bond and partnership that is necessary for success in the sport. But, more importantly, the close bond carries over into the day-to-day life we share with our wonderful and amazing kees!


And most importantly for a keeshond – a sport where cookies come many times during a search, each time the dog finds a hide. Immediate rewards for “finding the smells”, no waiting. What’s not for any self-respecting keeshond to love about this sport!

Does our versatile breed excel at this sport? You bet they do! My kees, Please (Skyline’s If You Please), and a friend’s kees, Flicker (Rockabye’s Hot Flame), have both achieved the top titles in four venues of Scentwork – AKC, UKC, CPE and NACSW – by participating in scentwork trials in our regional area. Both have placed high in an NACSW Elite trial, Please earning a first place and Flicker earning a second place, competing all day against 29 other dogs. Please and Flicker often trade blue and red ribbons in individual element searches in the AKC, UKC and CPE venues, and
frequently earn one of the first through fourth place ribbons. This is in competition with a variety of breeds, including breeds commonly associated with canine detection work, such as Labs, GSDs, Malinois and Beagles. Kees definitely can hold their own in
scentwork competition. (And even better than ribbons, they  frequently earn lovely comments from the volunteers, such as “I love watching your dog work, she’s so happy”!) Please and Flicker are our ‘second dogs’ to participate in this sport. Prior to that Trip (Imagine The Road to Success) and Grace (Imagine Against All Odds) started us in this sport and gave us many “firsts” to remember.

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