Welcome to Hunter’s Heart Scent Detection Training

Welcome students!  We’re looking forward to meeting you and your scent dog. We’ve inspired hundreds of students internationally, including dogs of all ages, breeds and sizes. Whether your target odor is bedbugs, narcotics, or nosework scents, we’ll help you to succeed with our proven protocols.

Lessons are packed with hands-on practical experience so your dog can quickly learn to search for scent, find and/or indicate the location of target odor. We’ll show you exactly where to go and what to do when you get there.


  • A hungry, energetic dog
  • Handfuls of non-crumbly, irresistible high value food rewards your dog loves most e.g. rotisserie chicken, tuna fudge or wieners. If you bring dry dog food and your dog spits it out in the distracting class environment, you won’t be able to train without finding more appealing rewards. Learn how to make tuna fudge at: https://nosework.huntersheart.com/2016/02/03/the-best-noncrumbling-training-rewards/. Bring more than you think you need because we use multiple rewards after every short search.
  • A buckle collar or tracking type harness MUST be worn during searches e.g. Comfortflex sports harnesses.
  • Long leash, approx. 6-12 feet. I use a biothane leash, but leather works too. (Note that nylon leashes will likely burn your hands.)
  • Bait bag or vest to store treats cut into bite sized pieces. You’ll need a place to store your treats so they don’t distract the dog but you can access them instantaneously to reward, without dropping any. Deep pockets can work too. Please do not carry a distracting ziploc bag full of food into your searches.
  • If your dog loves toys, bring 3-5 toys of equal, highest value (we’ll search for 1 toy and reward with the other). If you start training your dog with only 1 toy, it will be far more difficult to succeed, so please bring several toys.
  • Dog poop bags for cleaning up
  • Optional: clicker, water and bowl
  • Please leave your dog in your vehicle and come in to talk before the start of class. Dogs must be crated or in cars between searches, so the won’t disturb other teams while working.


For all nosework lessons, the target odor will be a cocktail of all 6 CKC scents (Wintergreen/Birch/Anise/Clove/Pine/Cypress), unless otherwise stated.


Please note that dog-dog interaction is never allowed at any of our nosework events, so it’s always safe to enjoy scent detection. Don’t let your dog sniff or greet another dog, and leave as much space as you can between dogs. If your dog is close enough to greet another dog, you’re way too close! Aggression towards people or dogs will not be tolerated, and may result in immediate dismissal without a refund. Please help us all to enjoy scent detection in a safe, positive environment that sets everyone up for success.


Once you’re registered, please complete our student survey to get the most out of your experience: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/8WMBQW7. It may take up to 10 minutes to complete. We’ll use your responses to customise the searches for your unique dog and your current goals.

Here are some of the most common objectives for scent detection. If you’re troubleshooting something else, let us know in advance so we can prepare.


We’ll imprint your dog on target odor (the scent he’ll search for) in our scent detection training lab, inspired by Andrew Ramsey. Then we’ll motivate your dog to want to find it. Rewarding properly is the key! We’ll teach your dog where to go and what to do when he gets there. Your dog will learn:

We’ll explain what to do at every step. You will learn to reward properly, to trust your dog to work independently, and to become a better dog trainer. This process will start to shape an indication behavior of focused attention. Click to learn more about the dog’s role and the handler’s role.


Level 1 will prepare you to:


Once your dog knows how to find the source of target odor, we’ll teach him how to show you the precise location of source using a formal indication behavior.

Level 2 will help teach your dog a rock-solid indication behavior on containers:

Level 2 will build a solid foundation to prepare you for certification or competition. Note this course does not teach the dog to search for odor or go to source (which are covered in Level 1).

Options for training an indication on low hides include:

  1. Shaping a down using a wooden indication box, or
  2. Using leash pressure to train the dog to freeze like a statue with attention focused at source.

We’ll start with easiest searches for low hides (up to 2 feet). We recommend teaching and proofing an indication on low hides so it’s trained to fluency, before you focus on high hides.


For teams that are proficient in searching, finding and indicating in container searches, this course will help you to introduce the other search environments e.g. vehicles. This course will prepare for Interior, Exterior and Vehicle searches in certification, competition or in the field: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxGz5nr3EvY&t=1s

In certification/competition, teams perform a blind search (where the handler doesn’t know the location of source). You will be judged on your ability to:

  • Find the target odor under time pressure
  • Perform the indication behavior
  • Locate the precise location of source (the highest concentration of target odor), within approx. 2-6 inches. Most Certifying Officials prefer handlers not to re-cue their dog, and expect a prompt, precise response. We like to train an indication so obvious that even your grandmother could identify the location. Unlike container searches, where you must pick the hot box, in the elements the judge is looking for the precise location of source. If source is the top left corner of a license plate, the team may be faulted or fail for identifying the bottom right corner. You don’t want to train a questionable performance that will leave the evaluator thinking!

Note: Exterior and vehicle searches are weather-dependent e.g. we won’t do vehicle searches on ice due to the risk of injury.

Level 3 does not train dogs to recognize target odor, to search systematically or to indicate the precise location of source (which are covered in Levels 1 & 2).

We also offer half-day seminars (see https://www.kayennakennels.ca/copy-of-nosework-seminars for dates). For Beginners, we’ll start to motivate your dog to search for odor.

Want to take your scent detection to the next level? Advanced seminars tackle handling multiple hides, distractions, clearing rooms, distance, speed or new scent puzzles: https://www.kayennakennels.ca/copy-of-nosework-seminars Challenges help to prepare you to succeed in certification or the higher levels of international nosework competition. https://youtu.be/c03ShPytY5g where teams are evaluated on their ability to:

  • Bypass toy and food distractions in the search environment to find the target odor
  • Search buildings or other large areas under time pressure (up to 10 minutes per search)
  • Find high hides of 4 ft. or higher
  • Clearing rooms that contain no odor
  • Search and find an unknown number of hides.

Nosework challenges help handlers to trust and verify their scent dogs, and will train some of the skills required to pass a double-blind scent detection test https://youtu.be/HMjH36h2PwE.  (In double-blind tests, neither the handler nor the evaluator know the location of the hide, or whether the area is CLEAR.) As always, if testing reveals deficits in the training or proficiency of the scent detection team, performance can be improved by targeted training and/or drills. Email Carla at webmaster@HuntersHeart.com if you have a special request.


Interested in seeing how your dog would do in Nosework Competition? Our Beginner level sniff and go is like a one hour class. We’ll start to motivate your dog to search for target odor.

Our Advanced Sniff and Go is for dogs that have already been trained to search for odor. Test your skills at our informal sniff and go, build confidence, or simply to have fun in a supportive, safe, new environment. You can choose to do a blind search (where the handler doesn’t know the location of odor) or ask where odor is before you start searching, so you can click/mark the instant your dog is successful, then reward at source.  Formal indications are NOT required. Interior, exterior and vehicle searches may also be available.

If your dog has any problems or you’re brand new and unsure, watch other teams so you see exactly where source is located, or ask the instructor where it is so you can reward immediately. If you have trouble, the experienced instructor can help you to make it easier so you can succeed.


Homework may help you to progress more quickly, provided that your odor hygiene is good, you present appropriate challenges and your rewards are on time and at source. Here’s what you’ll need to practice at home:

  • Target odor
  • A distraction free environment e.g. room with 10 x 10 foot space
  • High value rewards
  • Level 1 will need at least 8 boxes to set up your scent detection training lab
  • Level 2 will need 12 similar looking boxes. Ideally you will make your own wooden indication box according to our instructions. Or use what you have e.g. an empty beer case or bankers box for storing file folders
  • Target to send your dog at a distance e.g. agility table, bath matt, dog bed or a piece of wood without slivers. Use what you have on hand as long as it’s safe for the dog to interact with
  • Optional: training assistant or crate covered by a towel to secure your dog between searches, video camera or phone to video your training sessions
  • Level 3 and above will need access to larger, safe search environments, up to entire buildings.

We’ll show you how, so you have fun training a reliable scent dog.

Don’t forget to follow our blog (hit the blue button at the top right of this page) to get event notices, free resources and scent puzzles. We’re looking forward to some fun scent detection with you and your dog. Questions are always welcome. Share your ideas in the comments below.

Dr. Carla Simon, Hunter’s Heart
Follow Our Blog: https://Nosework.HuntersHeart.com
Online Classes: http://store.huntersheart.com/Scent_Dog_Train_a_solid_indication_p/smo.htm
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ScentDog
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Shop: http://store.huntersheart.com/nosework_UKC_SDDA_NACSW_scent_detection_s/1673.htm
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