Scent Work

Every dog thrives when given opportunities to use their incredible nose. Dogs can smell 100,000 times better than humans and these superpower noses can sniff out a teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic sized swimming pools.

Join Mandy Rigby, Scent Work UK Instructor, Judge and Trial Manager, and her team in our Scent Work Hub to find out more and experience this amazing activity in the have a go area. The team will be demonstrating the power of the dog nose and showcasing how the dog experts put their scent to good use. 

Why this activity?

Seeking is an innate and fundamental activity for every dog. Sniffing is more than just enrichment. It is at the core of every dog; it is how they navigate and assess their surrounding environment. The dog gains vital information about who has passed by the area recently through scent. These details are evaluated within the dog’s brain for any threats around or if there is a possibility of reproducing. They use their noses to hunt for food and water, which is their primary way of gathering all the environmental information they need to survive. The dog's olfactory system (how they assimilate information from scent) makes up 30% of the dog's brain matter and is far more complex than a human. When the dog fully utilises their olfactory system, this takes energy both physically and mentally naturally.

Over the past few years, nose work has become a more popular and accessible activity for companion dog owners. This is excellent news for our dogs! Detection-style scent work is a great sport for dogs and handlers to participate in and can open a whole new world for both the four-legged and two-legged. Seeing the world through our dog’s nose is truly fascinating.

Within scent work, the dog uses their complex olfactory system to latch on to a trail of particles coming from the scented article and track this back to where it has been hidden. When out on walks, we observe that our dogs will sniff and then follow a scent of interest to them; within the scent work dog sport, the handler element makes up the other half of the scent detection team, and this is where the bonding magic happens as we step into our dog’s fantastic world of smell. We are here to help our dogs understand our activity by training them to locate specific scents and alert us when they have found them.

Scent work as a companion dog activity originated from operational style detection nose work practised by the police, military, custom search dogs, explosives, medical alert and detection dogs, search, rescue, and conservation. Dogs are imprinted with the specific odour and trained to search for, locate and indicate the location or presence of the odour.

The basic training of scent work for companion dogs is no different, but rather than our life or the lives of others depending on it, the activity is done for fun and provides our dogs with an incredible natural job to do. The scented article is usually placed amongst items and containers around the perimeter of rooms and vehicles. Searches can take place within buildings or exterior spaces. Scent work can be practised at home, in the garden and within a group training scenario; it can be taken to various locations and competition levels. It is an intriguing activity for the handler to learn how scent particles move in different environments, temperatures, and weather conditions. It also involves keen handler observation skills, which build the handler and dog relationship.


  • Invaluable outlet to fulfil a dog’s fundamental instinctual need to seek and locate.
  • Reward-based activity increases dopamine levels, 'the feel-good hormone.’
  • Increases confidence to explore and engage within different environments.
  • Helps a dog to problem solve whilst working through the search challenges.
  • It builds on the ability of the dog to concentrate and focus.
  • Utilises energy, both mentally and physically
  • Non-impact sport promoting natural movement.
  • Builds on the handler and dog relationship through developing teamwork.
  • Dogs of all ages, breeds, life histories and physical abilities can participate.
  • Everyone is welcome to have a go at nose sports with their dog, companion pet owners and trainers.
  • For the handler, it is a social activity where you can meet new friends and like-minded dog lovers and enjoy spending time with your dog.
Mandy Rigby – Scentwork UK Instructor, Judge and Trial Manager
Scent Work Academy based in Solihull West Midlands