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RDO Day: AKC Scent Work

Pet Insurance  •   Maggie Dean  •   Sep 01, 2017

September 9th, 2017 marks the 15th Annual Flagship AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day in Raleigh, NC. Every week leading up to this fun, family-friendly event, we are highlighting an exhibit that will be featured at the event. This week we will spotlight a new addition to the AKC sporting line-up—AKC Scent Work. Don’t miss this this celebration of sniffers and be at the NC State Fairgrounds at 10:50am on RDO Day to catch a demonstration!


A dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times better than a human’s. AKC Scent Work capitalizes on this skill and allows both dog and handler to have fun using this innate nature of dogs. In addition to having fun, this rewarding game can build confidence in shy dogs and lets your canine companions do what they do best.

AKC Scent Work is based off the work of professional detection dogs (like drug dogs); however, rather than seeking out drugs, dogs are looking for hidden cotton swabs saturated with essential oils like Birch, Anise, Close, and Cypress. In contrast to other canine sports where the handler knows what has to be done, in Scent Work neither the dog nor the handler know where the scent is hidden. In addition, handlers are not allowed to issue commands, signals, or instructions. Dogs rely solely on their nose to call the shots and lead both dog and handler to success!


The swabs are hidden in a variety of environments or “elements”. There are four levels of difficulty in which titles can be earned at each element.

The four elements include:

  • Container: The dog determines which box or bag contains a scent.
  • Interior: The dog finds the scent in a regular indoor setting.
  • Exterior: The dog sniffs out swabs in an everyday outdoor area.
  • Buried: Judges bury the scent underground and the dog indicates where.


AKC Scent Work also has another class option in which the target scent is the handler’s smell, instead of an essential oil. Handlers usually use a different command when the dog is searching for the handler’s scent, such as “find me!”

All dogs (purebred and mixed breeds) can participate in AKC Scent Work, provided they are AKC-registered, enrolled with Canine Partners, listed in the Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) program or recorded in the Foundation Stock Service (FSS) program.


Learn about another fun AKC sport to do with your dog and read our AKC Trick Dog blog!

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