Trial Rule Book

Version 10.2 is the official rule book for the NACSW effective January 23, 2020.

NACSW Rule Book Version 10.2, January 23, 2020

We are now providing additional details about the types of containers you are likely to encounter at NACSW trials:

NACSW Trial Container Guidelines for Members - effective September 1, 2020. 


To see prior summary of changes for versions of the rule book, go to the rule book archives page.

NACSW™ Rule Book - Version 10.2, January 23, 2020

Summary of changes:

There are no significant changes in this version of the rule book. However with the changes that were just implemented as of January 1, we had several places where there were discrepancies that needed addressed or clarifications needed.

NACSW™ Rule Book - Version 10.1, September 2, 2019 - effective January 1, 2020

Please note that version 10.0 of the rule book will remain in effect until December 31, 2019.

Summary of changes:

  1. Updated scoring of Blank Areas at Elite and Summit. 
  2. For NW1/NW2/NW3, L1/L2, and Elite, points per hide are determined by taking 100 points and dividing by the total number of hides, not calls. For Summit League, each hide is worth 5 points.  For L3 the points per hide is determined by taking 100 points and dividing by the total number of calls.
  3. NW3 Changes
    1. NW3 Titles may be earned in two ways. If a team receives a perfect score of 100 points and no more than 3 faults at a trial, they will earn a NW3 title in a single trial. If a team receives a “qualifying score” and no more than 3 faults, they will earn a qualifying leg towards their title. Two qualifying legs will result in a title. The maximum time for each search area, as determined by the specific competition, must not be exceeded. A team will earn a qualifying score at a trial if it has only 1 “error” and no more than 3 faults. Errors include the following: a False Alert/Fringe, a missed hide, or a time out (i.e., failure to call finish before time expires).
    2. The NW3 Elite title is awarded to competitors who have successfully passed the NW3 title level three times and have demonstrated competency in all four elements. Competency is defined as earning either the NW3 Element title or the Level 3 Element Specialty title for each element. For example, a team may demonstrate competency in all elements by earning the NW3-V, L3E, NW3-I, and L3C titles.
    3. Teams will be allowed to continue searching after a False Alert/Fringe in a search, however the search will end if a second False Alert/Fringe is called in the same search. 
    4. There will be 6 searches at each NW3 trial. There will be at least one search of each element (Container, Exterior, Interior and Vehicle). The remaining two searches may be of any of the elements. For example, there may be 2 Container searches, 1 Exterior search, 1 Interior search, and 2 Vehicle searches.
    5. Any one of the 6 searches may be a Blank Area with no hides. There will be no more than one Blank Area (search area with zero hides) per trial and it is possible a trial may not have a Blank Area.
  4. Faults for excusals, elimination, absences and dismissals  at NW1/NW2/NW3 were updated. At these levels, faults will no longer be assessed for false alerts/fringes.
  5. The Trial Scoring section was reorganized and updated with the new rule changes.
  6. Effective January 1, 2020, scores for an individual search may be negative at NW3, Elite and Summit. This is to ensure that teams who find the same number of hides and have the same number of deductions end up with the same overall score and not have the scores dependent on which search the hides are found and deductions occurred. Overall scores will have a minimum score of 0 and will not be negative.
  7. Added clarification that wolves, wolf-hybrids, coyotes or coyote-hybrids, foxes or fox-hybrids are not eligible for registration or participation in NACSW events.
  8. Minor phrasing and language updates.

NACSW™ Rule Book - Version 10.0, June 26, 2019 - effective through December 31, 2019

Click here to read the Official Announcement for this version of the rule book

Summary of changes:

  1. Clarification that For Exhibition Only (FEO) entries must meet the basic age/health requirements outlined in the rule book.  FEO is for teams that may not have the required titles for participation in the level, or who may already have earned the title, or for a handler running a 2nd dog in the same trial.
  2. A warm-up area will be designated at all ORTs and NW1/NW2/NW3 and L1/L2/L3 Element Specialty Trials. There will be one identified hide among 3 ORT type boxes. One handler/dog team at a time may use this area. Dogs on deck will have priority. The area may only be available to those teams enroute to a search area depending on logistics. This may also serve as a recovery area for dogs post-search. Elite and Summit level trials may have a single recovery box with an identified hide available to the dogs as they return from their searches.
  3. Clarification of the types of containers that you may encounter at NW1 and Level 1 Element Specialty Trials.
  4. Effective July 1, 2020: All 3 odors may now be used at all levels and teams will be required to have earned an ORT title to be eligible for NW1 and Level 1 Element Specialty Trials.
  5. Effective January 1, 2020: For NW2 there will be 5 search areas.  There will be at least one of each element (Interior, Exterior, Container, Vehicle), the 5th search may be any one of the elements.  For NW3 there will be 6 search areas.  There will be at least one of each element (Interior, Exterior, Container, Vehicle), the remaining two search areas may be any of the elements. 
  6. Effective January 1, 2020: For NW3, any one of the search areas may be a blank area.
  7. Effective January 1, 2020: For NW3, we will define qualifying criteria for those who are almost perfect to allow for 2 legs with qualifying score to earn a title, or perfect (100 points and less than 4 faults) in one trial for title on same day. Criteria will take effect January 1, 2020 and will not be retroactive.
  8. Minor phrasing and language updates.

NACSW™ K9 Nose Work® Rule Book - Version 9.5, January 26, 2019

Summary of changes:

  1. Update to clarify that it is not appropriate to contact trial locations in advance for information (in addition to the existing language about not visiting trial locations)
  2. Clarified that dogs may be excused from a search if there is extreme disruption or disrespect of a search area.
  3. Reinstated 30 second warnings for all searches at Elite (timer will make their best effort).
  4. A title will be given for teams who pass all 3 ORTs (Birch, Anise and Clove).  There is no requirement to pass all three odors at the same event, but the ORT title will not be earned until all 3 odor tests have been passed. Titles will be granted retroactively for all teams previously achieving the requirements for this title.

Please note that we expect to have the NACSW site updated to reflect these titles by July 1, 2019. We will begin issuing title certificates for teams earning this title as of July 1, 2019. We will also provide an option for those earning the title prior to that date to request a certificate at that time.

         5. Clarified that there may be more than one hide on a vehicle in Vehicle searches.

         6. Minor language and phrasing updates


For future consideration:

As NACSW continues to grow, we continue to work to broaden the parameters for appropriate trial locations.  One challenge with some locations is the proximity of search areas to the parking area or bathrooms and the audibility concerns this presents.  Especially at NW3 or Elite where the number of hides is unknown and hearing competitors call Alerts may give other competitors inadvertent information.  Additionally, the possibility of a judge asking ‘where’ can cause audibility concerns as well.  There are some teams competing whose trained alert behavior is a bark.  This alert behavior may limit the trial locations we can approve moving forward.  We have no intention of penalizing those teams already competing with this behavior, however as we look to the future we will be looking closely at adding a rule to discourage trained audible alerts.  We wanted to make our participants aware so that those starting with new dogs may take this into account when making training decisions about trained alert behaviors.  We do want to emphasize that we are not concerned about dogs that bark in excitement during a search, just those that have a specific trained alert behavior of a bark.


The numbering system for identifying the edition of the NACSW rule book is as follows:

  • If there are significant changes to trial structure, scoring, or title definitions, then a new numbered edition of the rulebook will be issued (i.e. 5.0, 6.0, 7.0).
  • If there are only small language changes, typos, changes to the guidelines, wording clarifications, or other changes that do not affect titling or training the version number will be added under the existing version (i.e. 6.1, 6.2, 6.3).
  • Major revisions to the rule book especially those that affect training will be announced with consideration for the time allotment for training adjustments.  Other revisions will be published no later than the trial entry open date.






Questions about the rule book? 

Contact Us.