In AKC Scent Work trials, dogs are taken through a search area with their human team member (“handler”). The dog is the star of the Scent Work trial—the handler guides the dog’s search only when necessary and lets the judge know when the dog has found the scent.

The dog may paw, bark, point with their nose or body, sit, lie down, or use any other behavior to communicate the location of the odor to the handler. The handler then signifies the find to the judge by saying “Alert”. Any search in which all the hides are found and called within the allotted time, and no non-qualifying faults or behaviors requiring excusals are committed, is considered a qualifying, “Q” search. Three qualifying searches are required for the dog to earn a title in any of the classes (for example, Novice Containers).

Dogs will begin with the Novice level classes and move up as they earn titles. They may progress through the elements at different speeds (for example, a dog may compete in the Novice Interior class and the Advanced Container class at the same time).

Levels are Novice, Advanced, Excellent, Master, Detective.