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DogPACT K9 Nose Work Training

What is "Nose Work?"

Also known as canine scent work, Nose Work trains dogs to identify the location of a "target" scent by using their natural sense of smell. Handlers (that's you!) learn to "read" their dog's body language so that they can tell when their dogs are truly identifying the target scent and not just guessing.

The most attractive thing about this new sport is the broad array of dogs and handlers that can do it. In essence, if your dog has a nose, he can play this game. You don't need a specific breed of dog to do well in Nose Work. Anyone who takes their dogs on a walk knows the allure of all the fascinating smells dogs encounter that we are clueless about!

Even dogs who don't get along with other dogs, are fearful of the real world outside their front door, and dogs who are easily distracted in traditional group classes do well in Nose Work classes. This is because each dog is worked separately while his/her classmates are crated away from the working area. This allows each dog to concentrate on the task at hand instead of other often overwhelming environmental factors. Handlers can relax, too, and build their confidence and have fun without worrying about anyone else.

Handlers for this sport come in all sizes and shapes as well. Physical fitness and fancy footwork are not critical to this sport as they are in some other dog sports. This makes Nose Work accessible to many dogs and their people. This sport, in essence, simply requires a human team member who enjoys the simple pleasures of seeing their dog have a good time, without all the equipment and more complex training that is required in many of the other dog sports. The most strenuous part of the sport is running behind or along with your dog as he is working a scent.

One Dog's Story

Janice and Mattie

Mattie is a an Australian Shepherd/Cattle Dog mix who loved everybody, but was tearing up Janice Delaney's home shortly after bringing her home at six months of age. In an attempt to stop Mattie's destructiveness--identified by her trainer as separation anxiety--Janice enrolled her in obedience and agility classes. It wasn't until Janice enrolled then 13-month-old Mattie in Nose Work classes that her behavior at home improved.

"Nose work was a great overall experience," Janice recalled. "Mattie loved it and just came into herself. The training was very well done from beginning basic box drills to being able to compete in trials. The instructors were wonderful at understanding Mattie's behavioral issues and allowed her to be in the building where she could watch me but not distract the other dogs from searching. The best part of it all is that Mattie no longer suffers from separation anxiety and has a whole new level of confidence."

Janice found the nose work so much fun that she went on to advanced levels of training and entered Mattie in trials starting in 2008. Mattie attained both the NW1 and NW2 titles and was working toward NW3 when she had to take a break for health reasons.

Of special pride to Janice is that Mattie is a recipient of the Harry Award, which was established in 2008 in honor of Harry and his relationship with handler Penny Scott-Fox. Harry was entered in the inaugural nose work trial, but died from a rattlesnake bite just days before the trial. The Harry Award is awarded to "the most outstanding rescue dog that demonstrates extraordinary ability and spirit in nose work," emphasizing the relationship with the handler and the teamwork.

Stages of Nose Work Training

At the beginning levels of training, dogs are encouraged to "find" their toy or treats in a box. Lavish praise, the toy, and treats reward the dog for his efforts. Later, the toy or treat is hidden in a box among other empty boxes, and the dog is rewarded for finding the box that conceals his goodie.

Once the dog gets hooked on the game of "find it," an essential oil such as birch, anise, or clove is used. A minuscule amount of one of these essential oils is placed on a very small cotton swab and placed in the box with his toy or treat. This is the stage called "pairing." The dog learns that his toy/treat comes in packages with this new, distinct scent. Gradually, dogs learn to find the scent all by itself in a container, and are reward by the handler for finding the scent. This essential oil is then placed in more and more difficult locations for the dog to find.

As the dogs learn to play the game, handlers learn how to closely observe their dogs so they know when their dog has found the scent. This "indication" behavior is an important part of the training process since handlers will use their individual dog's behavior to start rewarding their dog for "indicating" their find.

The difficulty of the game increases as the scents are hidden out in the real world in bushes and stairwells and, in vehicle searches, the wheel wells, bumpers, and undercarriage of parked cars and trucks.

There are several levels of competition, which are described on the National Association of Canine Scent Work's web site.

DogPACT Nose Work classes are unique

Official NACSW Classes

Whether you choose to train to compete in this very popular sport or train for your dog’s mental and physical enrichment, DogPACT classes are taught under the guidelines established by the NACSW, the largest nose work association in the United States. Our instructors are certified by the NACSW and are actively involved in the sport, competing with their own dogs, volunteering at events, and promoting this fun new canine sport.

Limited enrollment

DogPACT believes that the best learning takes place when students receive more one-on-one instruction. The best way to do this is to limit the number of students in a class. Each class lasts 90 minutes, which together with limited enrollment, ensures that each team gets plenty of personalized instruction and several working sessions with the instructor in each class.

Dogs are worked individually while other dogs in class are crated. This "down time" gives dogs a mental break while also assuring that dogs who do not like other dogs near them are given a place to rest without other dogs loose. Down time between each dog's working time also gives handlers times to watch other dogs work and observe how the instructor works with each team.

Equipment & Supplies Needed for Class


Both toys and treats can be used. In the initial stages of training, dogs are encouraged to find a favorite toy or treat.  Choose toys and treats that are especially enticing to your dog. Bring lots and lots of treats, cut into very small pieces.

Target Odors

Your instructor will provide everything you need, other than your toys and/or treats during the beginning stages of training.

Later, when odor is introduced, small bottles of the target odors (essential oils), small cotton swabs, and containers into which the scented swabs are placed are all that is required. These materials can be purchased Online from Individual supplies are available, as well as a full kit with everything to get started. 


Dogs must be crated when they are not working. Bring a crate that your dog is comfortable in (e.g., soft-sided, plastic, or wire).

Collar and Leash A flat buckle collar or a harness in addition to a 6-foot leather, cloth, or nylon leash. No choke chains, pinch collars, or retractable leashes are allowed.


Sunday afternoon/evenings

There are three classes, and each class is designed to match the skill levels of the dog-handler team.

4 – 5:30 p.m. Introduction to Nosework
5:30 – 7 p.m. Intermediate Nosework
7:15 – 8:45 p.m. Advanced Nosework

See below for more details information about the skill levels of each class.

The location of our classes has changed! We are excited to announce expanded search opportunities provided by this new location/ in Huntington Beach conveniently located near the 405/San Diego freeway between Bolsa Chica on the south and Springdale to the north.

Grace Lutheran School
5172 McFadden Ave.
Huntington Beach

Next Class Start Dates

Continuing students Contact Jean Morris, CNWI  to inquire  about enrolling your dog in class or about private lessons.

New Students Please contact our DogPACT Contact Us Here


Group Classes

6 limited enrollment group classes is  $160.00.
Prerequisite: Permission of the Instructor

Private Nose Work Lessons

Private lessons are tailored to meet individual student's training goals and their dog's capabilities, from beginning to advanced nose work skills. Semi-private lessons are also available should you choose to train with a friend. Contact Jean Morris, CNWI to inquire about enrolling your dog in class or about private lessons.

New Students Please contact Us

1/2-hour : $45.00
1-hour: $90.00
Prerequisite: Permission of the Instructor

Noses on the Road

DogPACT is proud to offer "Noses on the Road!"  

These are Nose Work field trips to a variety of locations, which allow teams to practice Nose Work in new areas and under new conditions.  Examples of recent trips include a school where teams searched in classrooms and lunch areas and a cultural center where teams practiced container and interior searches.

Invitations are sent out when one is scheduled. If you are a dog-lover and have a business or location you might share for a few hours with 6 to 8 dog-handler teams, please contact us.  If you are interested in attending a Noses on the Road trip, please email Jean Morris, CNWI, to be put on a notification list.

Prerequisite: Permission of the Instructor

Nose Work Class Levels

Introduction to Nose Work

Introductory classes focus on building enthusiasm in dogs for finding their toy or treats, hidden in an obvious place such as a cardboard box. A lot of praise and generous rewards are used to encourage the dog to continue to use his nose to find the treasure. At first, there are just a few containers used, and the dog uses his nose to discriminate between boxes without treats and the one with the prized treat/toy. As learning progresses, the number of the containers increases, as well as their location.

It is during the Introductory class that dogs develop the keen desire to hunt. This desire is the foundation upon which introduction to odor is built.

Introduction to Odor

The essential oil of birch is introduced by “pairing” this odor with the treat/toy hidden in a container. Pairing is continued until treats are reduced or eliminated, and the dog is eagerly hunting for the odor alone. The difficulty of the “hides” is increased by changing the location of the containers as well as placing the odor in interior and exterior locations without using containers. The challenges increase, but so does the fun!

Prerequisite: Permission of the Instructor

Intermediate: Continuing Odors

Continuing classes leverage the dog's understanding of using his nose to find additional odors of anise and clove. At the beginning, the target scents are in easy-to-find locations and as skills develop, they are hidden in more difficult locations with progression in subsequent sessions to strategies and skills needed to find target odors in four different “elements” (interiors, containers, exteriors, and vehicles).

Instruction is tailored to the needs of students. The desire to hunt always trumps the human desire to make things more difficult too soon!

Prerequisite: Permission of the Instructor

Advanced: Continuing Odors

Advanced classes include hides of two or three target odors, and the difficulty of the hides increases. The odor may not be directly accessible, and handlers are taught how to “read” their dogs, watching for their dog’s “alert” or “indicator” of where the source of the odor is even if they can’t reach it! Handlers learn how variable environmental factors (such as the weather, converging odors, and distractions) contribute to the dog’s ability to indicate the actual “source” of the odor, and to eliminate “false alerts” when the dog thinks they might have found it, but aren’t quite sure.  Advanced classes also prepare those who want to compete in the sport for the challenges of competition.

Prerequisite: Permission of the Instructor

Is this sport for you?

Dogs of any breed, size, temperament, mobility, and age are encouraged to give it a try.  Dogs love the sport because we are not "training" them to do anything; rather, we encourage them to use their innate ability to find sources of odor that are often undetectable to their human handlers.

Nose Work incorporates the same training principles used to train drug and explosive detections dogs as well as other official search dogs.  The "training" comes in teaching the human how to read what our dogs are trying to communicate to us. This creates a stronger connection with your dog because your dogs work together as a team.  Your dog is motivated by engaging in a fun activity with you and getting rewarded for what comes naturally, and you are learning how to have a "conversation" with your dog as you learn to understand how they communicate. 


If your dog has ever shown aggression towards people, this is not an appropriate class. Please contact us for private behavior modification consultation.

Nose Work Instructor

Jean Morris, CNWI, teaches Nose Work for DogPACT.

Jean Morris

Jean Morris, CNWI teaches K9 Nosework for DogPact. Jean has a BS in Animal Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and an MS in Oriental Medicine. She practices Acupuncture and Functional Nutritional Medicine in Redondo Beach, CA.

Jean has lived with a variety of animals all her life. In the late 1990's she began training her Bernese Mountain Dog, Niekko, in obedience. Growing frustrated with the traditional, rather old-school, training styles, she began learning clicker training and other positive motivational training techniques. These tools opened the door to the world of competitive dog sports. Over the years she has competed and earned advanced titles in conformation, Rally, obedience, herding, draft, agility, and K9 Nosework.

In 2009, she started her journey in K9 Nosework and quickly became impassioned with the training, the people, and the "culture" of Nosework. "It is a beautiful thing to catch a glimpse of how our dogs see the world."

Jean's dog Gremmie is the first Bernese Mountain Dog to achieve the coveted NW3 Elite title.

In May 2015 Jean and Gremmie had the honor and privilege of competing in the NACSW National Invitational Championships in Loveland, Colorado.

Contact Jean Morris, CNWI to inquire about enrolling your dog in class or about private lessons.


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