Canine nose work or scent work, using dogs to find something using their nose, has been around since humans and dogs first began to work together. In companion events, it’s done directly in obedience for the article exercise and of course for tracking. In real life, it forms the basis for almost all that we use dogs for whether it is hunting, search and rescue, sentry work, drug detection, or any of the other hundreds of things we use dogs for.

Searching for something fun that civilians could do with their dogs, a group in California decided to create a sport based on working detection dogs. Detection dogs are those trained to locate a specific odor, whether it be drugs, fruit, or termites, apart from the many other odors around in day to day life. They chose three odors which are easily found and yet not commonplace and decided that the dog needed to find them outside, inside, as directed by a handler, or when free to search a whole area. They set up three levels with level one being just one scent, one location of each of the four types, and one and only one location of that scent in those locations. As the dog advances in level the scents that might have to be located are increased to three unique scents plus every possible combination of those scents. More locations are added. More hides or no hides can occur in those locations. Plus, distractions such as food and toys can occur.

Training for this sport started in California and in 2008 two matches were held there. The first trial was in January 2009 in Van Nuys, California and there were a number of trials held in California throughout 2009 and 2010. Also during 2009 and 2010 training started in other areas of the US and Canada with seminars and camps and classes. Starting in 2011 trials started occurring beyond the California border. In March there was a trial in Vancouver, WA; In May a trial near Boston, Mass; and in June trials in Colorado and New York. It has expanded exponentially since then.

A number of people are training their Border Terriers in this sport for many different reasons. Some plan to compete in it and some do not. Some are working with their oldest dogs; well over 14 years. Old dogs noses still work quite well. This sport gives them something that exercises their minds without over stressing their bodies. An ideal sport for these dogs who still really want to work. Others are working with their youngest to give them an enjoyable sport which also builds teamwork. And of course there are many dogs in between. The people are doing it because their dogs, old and young and in between, just enjoy it, and they enjoy watching their dogs do something which they cannot do themselves.