Positive Training: The Basics About Nosework


My friend Vicky and her sweet Cairn Terrier is a NW3 dog! This is from our class on Tuesday nights.


Boxes used for at home container searches!


Q-tips have odors birch and anise on them and box has holes in it — this is the Odor Box.



We are Nosework addicts and Walter and Shermie are competing in trials! I wanted to share how to do Nosework at home! It’s worth checking out a class in your area or you can look at online classes too: visit The Fenzi Academy.  Whether or not you end up enrolling, if you order an odor kit online you can do this fun sport at home – although I do recommend an online class or a class with a certified trainer if you want to compete…

Classes in the beginning are low tech. The first 4-5 weeks (pending the teacher) will consist of food in boxes that are about the shape of a shoebox. Your dog will hunt for something delicious to orient them that boxes pay “hot dogs”. I use tiny pieces of Strip Cheese.

(You will discuss with your instructor the tools you’ll need). Or –my dogs wear harnesses which they know means they’re going to work! I also bring something that is a treat they only get at nosework. Something REALLY delicious like hot dogs, or meatballs.

There are three odors they’re trained on: Birch, Anise and Clove.

Birch is the “beginners odor” so you start with Birch as the odor that is then added to the shoebox exercise. Then the dogs associate that odor pays! Practice makes perfect. After many rounds of this very fun game that your dog starts to love, you’ll ultimately move past boxes or containers. Containers is the base for all nosework and you are tested on whether your dog can find the odor in one of about 20 containers during a drill referred to as the Odor Recognition Test or ORT.

So my suggestion for at home play. (this is SUPER basic and anyone can do this with their dog…)

  • Grab shoe boxes or pizza boxes (8-10 is the top)
  • Designate one box as the odor box and poke holes in the top (see my pic)
  • This odor box should have the odor in it (follow the directions in your odor kit on how to apply odor to a Q-tip)
  • Then pair only this box with food (hot dogs)
  • See the picture of me with Walter, I moved a table so I had room for about 5-7 boxes
  • Given Walter has years of experience I reward right away and he typically alerts me when he finds the odor box
  • For newbies – as SOON as they get to the box with odor and show interest, reward with a party of treats! Open the box and let them also eat the treat in the box… feed for about 5 seconds continuously next to the odor in the box

Have FUN and add a comment below with any questions you have!


  • http://joycesdogs.com/k9-nose-work/
  • http://www.nacsw.net/target-odors/target-odor-suppliers – Nosework Odor Kit

This is from a recent Nosework trial and a vehicle search!


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*I’ll add this to a Positive Pet Training Hop on Monday, November 7.


There are 37 Comments

  1. Emma says:

    We are back to doing some box training now with Madison. She is only 12 weeks old, but she does tracking almost every morning and a few nose work searches a week. Such a fun sport. We, as you know are addicted as well!

    • Madison is so adorable I cannot stand it – I rarely get to watch newbie dogs and puppies work anymore! It’s so addicting and when it’s raining out and Walter is wild and driving the pack crazy I get those boxes out and he immediately focuses…. Thank you!

  2. Lynn says:

    Interesting. It wouldn’t take long for my Star to find that smell. She already finds it. But I can see why training is essential. Thanks for the info.

  3. Jan K says:

    Nose work is so much fun! My only issue is just a lack of space for setting up boxes, but we manage. I need to get some pizza boxes like you suggested too. Fenzi trained it just a little differently, but the end result is the same. Even though we’re not competing I still want to take the next class and keep learning more.

    • I sometimes set up in the driveway or in the yard. Fenzi is fantastic – I’m auditing a trial class and have learned a lot from those students this fall. Pizza boxes are super easy to work with but honestly shoe boxes are great too!

  4. Jodi Stone says:

    We’ve taken a couple of classes, and Delilah loves it. We are very informal (only using food) but I like to pull this game out when weather prevents us from going out.

  5. Looks fun … and I bet it’s a great bonding activity too!

  6. Monika & Sam says:

    I would love to start this kind of training with Elsa! I love that nose work give dogs a physical and mental workout.

  7. Amanda says:

    I want to try this at home! I think all my dogs would love it.

  8. I’ve never tried nose work with my pug before. It’s so interesting how powerful a dog’s nose can be!

  9. I’ve been thinking about giving this a try. The collies are always able to sniff out every hidden speck of food! lol

  10. That’s great. Nose work is such an amazing sport and activity. We “play” but do not get too involved. I’m glad you are having such a great time.

  11. Right on time, I was considering trying at home nosework with Matilda because she loves smelling new smells at the park. I think nosework would be a great way to get her focus, and I think she’d love it.

  12. Ryan says:

    Everyone is talking about nose work lately! I think Bentley would enjoy trying this.

  13. Kari says:

    I love when his little feet speed up, like “I know something’s up there!”

  14. It’s an interesting positive training for Dachshund. Dachshund is surely breed for hunting and chasing. I’m considering to find one for my nephew birthday gift. Interesting choice.

  15. Joely Smith says:

    I honestly never knew about nosetraining but it makes sense! Love this!

  16. Nichole says:

    Penny is LOVING her nosework classes. We started with boxes, then did bags, and have done some open searches (basically going through a small section of the training room and finding the food on a plastic plate). Birch was first introduced in Week 6 and that was on a nice day, so we worked outside and used plastic containers from the dollar store (think party supplies). Last week we worked with the odor inside of socks…

  17. dawn says:

    Great info! I had wanted to do nose work with my dog Ricochet, but never got around to it. I think I’m going to start with my other dogs over this winter as I’m sure they’d love to learn.

    Thanks for joining in the Pet Blogger Showcase!

  18. I recently tried training Mr. N to find cash! It was an interesting experiment. Thanks for joining the hop!

  19. Heather Reid says:

    Thanks for this. I’ve never seen classes for this before. We’ll definitely have to check it out.