SDS Judge’s Summary by Level | Sniffing Dog Sports Nosework

Brain overload? Sometimes keeping track of multiple hides is enough to keep your brain busy. Print this summary of SDS rules and you’ll be sure to set up practice searches that abide by Sniffing Dog Sports rules:

SDS Summary by Level (PDF)

The same information is pasted below.


General SDS Rules

Novice Advanced Excellent
Odor B B + A B + A + C
Max time 5 min 6 10
Max height <2 ft < 3 ft < 4 ft
Accessible? Accessible only Accessible and/or inaccessible Accessible and/or inaccessible
Finish required? No Yes, must call finish to stop the time, even if known # hides
  • May give 30 sec warning
  • Once the handler calls an alert, can’t cue next search until the judge confirms the call. After judge confirms the call, handler may reward or give cue to search again.

Area search

Novice Advanced Excellent
Search area <900 sf <1200 sf <2000 sf
#hides 1-2 1-3 0-4 UNKNOWN #

All levels MAY include multiple rooms. If there’s a transition time between areas, time will stop and timer will record both times, to be added by the score room later. If searches in flow, time will run continuously.

Container search

  • Always 6-12 containers per cluster
  • Each cluster is a different type of container.
  • 5 ft between clusters
  • Containers spaced 2-3 ft apart
Novice Adv Ex
Container type Boxes, cans, hard sized containers Any Any
Clusters 1-2 2-3 3-4
#hides 1 hide/cluster 1-2 hides/cluster 1-3 hides /cluster


Distractions N Y Y
  • Teams may search clusters in any order. Once team leaves a cluster, can’t return to previous clusters. Don’t need to say “clear” to move on to the next cluster”. Time runs continuously throughout clusters.

Distance Game 1 (Sitting)

  • Always 1 hide, only birch
  • containers only, 2-3 ft apart, straight line(s)


Novice Advanced Excellent
Container type Boxes only Any Any
Distance & rows  


1 row at 10 feet

·         MAY be 2 rows

·         First line of 8 boxes at 10 ft

·         Second line of 8 boxes 13 ft

#containers 8 12 16


  • 10 secs to take off leash & send, then immediately sit. Reward at source.

Distance Game 2 (Standing)

  • One hide = birch only?
Novice Advanced Excellent
Distance box to hide 5-6 ft 7-9 ft 10-12 ft


  • Interior or exterior
  • May offer off leash
  • Handler area taped or marked. Don’t cross the line, but can move freely
  • Cue search then go into the box and stay there until call alert
  • Dog must cross start line, but can enter/exit/recross line freely
  • Reward at source

Speed Search

  • Always 1 hide, only birch
  • Always 3 clusters of boxes, Max 1 hide/cluster
  • Clusters 12-15 ft apart
  • Time = 1 minute


Novice Advanced Excellent
Hides Must be 1 hide/cluster 1 cluster MAY be clear
?known # hides
2 clusters MAY be clear

?unknown # hides

Finish? Not required. Time stops when handler calls the 3rd alert Must call finish to stop the time


Distractor Mania

  • Try to make distractors inaccessible.
  • Always 1 hide, only birch
  • May be container, interior and/or exterior. If you see a container, don’t assume the hide is there.
  • Areas smaller or same area as above


Novice Advanced Excellent
Hides 1 hide
# Distractions 2 ≤ 3 ≤ 4
Type Dry kibble or cookies + dog toys & chews e.g. bully sticks All
(cheese, peanut butter, croissant)



  • Handlers search several rooms/areas
  • Only birch
  • Hides and number of hides conveyed in handler briefing depends on level
  • May be container, interior and/or exterior. If you see a container, don’t assume the hide is there. Excellent may be more complex, intentional distractors and/or limited time.































Please note this is my quickly typed summary and may contain errors. If you spot mistakes, please let me know. Questions and comments are always welcome.

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