From Intro to First Trial: Getting Started

This is an informational page, please refer to the most current rule book to ensure that you have the most up to date information.


The activity and sport of K9 Nose Work® is designed to let dogs engage their natural scenting abilities in a fun and rewarding search endeavor, inclusive to the highly motivated working dog, as well as the beloved family pet. K9 Nose Work® can be done anywhere you can go with your dog. With the right foundation and continued training, any dog can do K9 Nose Work®!

To get started, the NACSW™ recommends that you find K9 Nose Work® classes in your area being taught by a Certified Nose Work Instructor (CNWI), Associate Nose Work Instructor (ANWI), or an instructor adhering to the philosophy and methodology of K9 Nose Work® as developed by the founders of the activity. If you do not have access to classes, attending K9 Nose Work® workshops given by the founders will get you started in the process. The first workshop you will want to attend is “Intro to Nose Work”, where you will learn the foundational concepts of K9 Nose Work®. The next workshop is “Intro to Odor”, which will introduce the use of target odors, the same odors used in competition. You will learn how to transition your dog to working on odor, as well as how to expand your searches both indoors and outdoors. Your K9 Nose Work® experience, at workshops or in class, should always be one which puts the dog first, creating an environment where your dog is free to express his natural scenting talents and learn scenting skills through problem solving and self-reward, and where your relationship with your dog deepens as you learn to trust in and support your dog’s newly developed talents.   

If you are interested in pursuing K9 Nose Work® as a sport, then regular attendance of classes taught by a qualified instructor will help to ensure that you and your dog have the necessary training to be competition ready, this includes exposure to the four elements of a K9 Nose Work® trial: interior, Exterior, Container and Vehicle searches.

Before you can compete in a trial, you’ll need to take an Odor Recognition Test (ORT). Your instructor will help you determine when you and your dog are ready to take an ORT. To enter an ORT you must be a member of the NACSW™, and your dog must be registered with the NACSW™ and have an NACSW™ scorebook. At an ORT, you and your dog will have to search 12 identical boxes with one of the boxes containing odor, which at the first level of competition is birch. The search will be “blind”, meaning you will not know which box contains the odor, and you must be able to correctly identify when you think your dog has found the odor box.

After passing an ORT, you and your dog are eligible to compete at the Nose Work 1 (NW1) level. Please note that an NW1 trial is much more complex than an ORT.  If you’re going to enter a trial, it is essential that you know and understand the rules of the sport, and that you take the time to become “trial ready”. At an NW1 trial, your dog must now have to cope with distractions, environmental stressors, larger search areas, and all four elements of competition. In addition, your dog may have to go from crate to work several times during the course of the day.

Remember, K9 Nose Work® is designed to provide a safe and fun activity for all dogs, including dogs that are reactive, shy, fearful, or unable to participate in other dog activities or sports. Many of these dogs excel in classes, and some gain the confidence to be able to compete at K9 Nose Work® trials. Regardless of your goals in K9 Nose Work®, the activity provides a lifetime of fun for your dog. 

Seek out a qualified instructor today to get started in this fast growing activity and sport. You will be amazed at what your best friend is capable of in K9 Nose Work®!


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