AKC Scent Work has two divisions:

  • The Odor division where your dog searches for one or more specific essential oils. The oils used are Birch, Anise, Clove and Cypress.
  • The Handler Discrimination (HD) division where your dog searches for the handler’s scent.

The Odor division has four levels of difficulty (Novice, Advanced, Excellent and Master).

The Novice level is divided into two sections: Novice A and Novice B.
Enter Novice A if:

  • You and your dog have not completed any AKC title for that particular element (Buried, Container, Interior, Exterior)
  • You and your dog have not completed a comparable title with another organization for that particular element
  • You are not a Scent Work judge
  • You have never worked as a professional detection dog handler

After you have received an AKC title for that particular element, you can move up to the Advanced level for that particular element. Or, you can remain in the Novice B level for that particular element.

Novice B is open to all dogs. The hide location and judging criteria is the same in Novice A and Novice B.

Each level of difficulty has four Elements that represent the search environment (Container, Interior, Exterior and Buried).

The HD division has the same difficulty levels (Novice, Advanced, Excellent and Master). The dog will need to locate the handler’s scent, discriminating it from other human scents, and indicate this find to the handler.

Odor DivisionHD division
DifficultyElement
NoviceBuriedContainerExteriorInteriorContainer
AdvancedBuriedContainerExteriorInteriorInterior
ExcellentBuriedContainerExteriorInteriorExterior
MasterBuriedContainerExteriorInteriorIntegrated
Detective Class

The Elements

In AKC Scent Work, the elements are:

Container
This element is based on the work of detection dogs that search luggage or packages for contraband. In the Container classes the dogs are presented with a selection of containers in an otherwise empty area, and they must identify which container(s) hold the target odor.

Interior
This element is based on the work of detection dogs that are sent into a room or structure to search for a substance. For these classes the search is indoors, in an area that is furnished naturally with objects for the dog to search around. Interior examples include: an office, classroom, bathroom, kitchen, concession stand, garage, warehouse, etc.

Exterior
This element is based on the work of detection dogs that search an outdoor area for a specific scent. For these classes the search is outside, in a natural area with plants, objects, or structures for the dog to search around. The challenge in Exterior is for the dog to search with the changing airflow and environmental conditions, and the sights and sounds of the great outdoors.

Buried
This element is based on the work of detection dogs to find scents buried beneath the ground or submerged under water. The scents are buried beneath sand or water (depending on the class), inside plastic storage tubs.

Detective Class
The Detective Class is the premier event for an AKC Scent Work team. It is a single large search, spanning both inside and outside of a building, with an unknown number of difficult hides that use one or more essential oil odors. Of all AKC Scent Work classes, this is the one that most closely emulates real detection work as the teams may discover hides anywhere in the large area, in any element.

Click here to view official rule book.