A Beginner’s Guide to:

Scent Detection Trials in the Lower Mainland

This guide is not meant to replace the full official rules and regulations as set forth by the various organizations that offer scent detection sport trials.

My intentions are to provide a brief overview and summary to help those new to the sport get started and sort out the many options available across Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

Organization Overview

At the time of writing, we are lucky enough to have an abundance of opportunities to trial and have fun with our dogs here in the BC Lower Mainland! There are a total of five different organizations actively running trials throughout the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver. For those willing to travel south of the border, there are even more options including the NACSW (the original K9 Nose Work® organization).

The organizations this guide will overview are:

  • CKC (Canadian Kennel Club)
  • C-WAGS (Canine-Work And Games)
  • K9 ABC Games
  • K9 SSG (K9 Scenting Skills & Games)
  • SDDA (Sporting Detection Dogs Association)
  • NACSW* (National Association for Canine Scent Work) **USA

Titles, Starting Level, and Moving Up

A title is earned when a team successfully completes a level with an organization. Note that the challenge presented at each level varies between each organizations (as does the increase of difficulty as levels progress). What may be the second level at one organization may be equivalent challenge to the third level in a different organization. When you earn a title the abbreviated designation is appended to the dog’s registered name.

CKC

C-WAGS

K9 ABC Games

K9 SSG

SDDA

NACSW

SDI CW-SP
CW-SPA*
SOG SSG-NC, SSG-NI, SSG-NE
SSGN
SD-S NW1
SDN CW-SD
CW-SDA*
DOG SSG-AC, SSG-AI, SSG-AE
SSGA
SD-A NW2
SDO CW-SI
CW-SIA*
TOG SSG-EC, SSG-EI, SSG-EE
SSGE
SD-E NW3
SDE CW-SSS
CW-SSA*
SD-EL ELT
SDM CW-SPI
CW-SPIA*
SD-CH,
SD-MACH,
SD-ELCH,
SD-GMCH
SMT
CW-SDD
CW-SDDA*
* Games titles are outside the scope of this guide * Element titles are outside the scope of this guide
CKC

The first title available is SDI (Scent Detection Instinct) which is optional and not required to enter other levels.

The SDN (Scent Detection Novice), SDO (Scent Detection Open), SDE (Scent Detection Excellent), & SDM (Scent Detection Master) titles must be earned sequentially. You may not move up in an individual element before earning your title (eg. cannot enter Open Interior before completing SDN even if successfully earned Novice Interior).

 

C-WAGS

You may start at either Level 1 (Scent Patrol) or Level 2 (Scent Detective). You must earn either CW-SP (Level 1) or CW-SD (Level 2) title before entering Level 3 (Scent Investigator). Level 3 must be earned before entering Level 4 (Scent Super Sleuth). Both Scent Private Investigator and Scent Detective Diversions require the Level 4 (Scent Super Sleuth) title.

*In C-WAGS teams may continue to compete indefinitely at any level they have already titled in. The ACE championship title may be earned in each level after 10 additional qualifying searches. An A is appended to the original title of that level (eg. CW-SDA).

K9 ABC Games™

Teams may choose to enter SOG (Single Odor Games), DOG (Double Odor Games), or TOG (Triple Odor games).  Teams are free to choose their entry  based on their experience (you do not need to earn lower titles to advance).

A team may choose to repeat the games at any level indefinitely.

K9 SSG

K9 Scenting Skills and Games offers three levels: Novice, Advanced, and Excellent. Each level offered comprises of 3 ‘Skills’: containers, interior, and exterior. A team may earn the overall level title (SSGN, SSGA, or SSGE) or a title for a single skill within a given level.

Teams are able to move up within a single skill before earning that level’s overall title. As an example a team may enter a Advanced Interior after earning their SSG-NI (Novice Interior), even if they have not completed their full SSGN (Novice) title. 

SDDA

Designated Odour Tests (DOTs) may be taken at any time and are not mandatory.

Teams can earn titles from four basic levels: SD-S (Sporting Detection Started), SD-A (Sporting Detection Advanced), SD-E (Sporting Detection Excellent), and SD-EL (Sporting Detection Elite). Each level consists of three components: containers, interior, and exterior. A team may move up in an individual component before earning their overall title.

Levels are repeatable and the accumulation of multiple titling scores may earn the team a championship title.

4 Championship titles are available, SD-CH (Sporting Detection Champion), SD-MACH (Sporting Detection Master Champion), SD-ELCH (Sporting Detection Elite Champion),  SD-GMCH (Sporting Detection Grand Master Champion).

Note that SDDA also offers “Games” titles which are outside the scope of this guide. 

NACSW™

Teams must successfully pass an ORT (Odor Recognition Test) of the corresponding odour to compete in other NACSW trials (eg. pass a Birch ORT to compete at NW1). An ORT title may be earned for passing an ORT for all 3 odors. *As of Jan 1 2020, teams must earn their ORT title before competing at NW1.

The NW1 (Nose Work 1), NW2 (Nose Work 2), and NW3 (Nose Work 3) titles must be earned sequentially. NW3 Elite and element titles NW3-C (containers), NW3-I (interiors), NW3-E (exteriors), and NW3-V (vehicles) titles may be earned from multiple successful NW3 trials. 

Element Specialty trials, Elite (ELT) level, and Summit (SMT) levels are outside the scope of this guide. 

Earning Titles

Titles are generally awarded after teams have earned a certain number of “Q”s (qualifying score). Depending on the organization a qualifying score may be an actual score (eg. out of 100) or may be limited to the team correctly identifies the location of a hide(s). NQs (non-qualifying) may be assigned depending on faults which vary across organizations; a dog eliminating in the search area is an example of a non-qualifying occurrence across all organizations. Please refer to each organizations official rules and regulations before competing. 

Some organizations include “clear” search areas at higher levels. A clear area is a search that includes no hides.

CKC

CKC Scent Detection is comprised of 3 components: Interior, Exterior, and Containers. 

Teams earn a Q by successfully identifying the location of all hides in a search within the alloted time. A Q must be earned in each of the 3 components at the corresponding level to earn a title.  

Component Qs are cumulative and do not need to be earned within the same trial. 

C-WAGS

C-WAGS searches are not divided into elements/components.

Teams earn a Q by successfully identifying the location of all hides in a search within the allotted time without incurring more than one fault. Teams must earn 4 Qs at the same levels to earn their title (eg. 4 Level 1 Qs earns the CW-SP title). To earn an ACE title, the team must earn 10 additional Qs at that level (eg. 14 total Level 1 Qs earns CW-SPA title).  

K9 ABC Games™

Each level consists of one large search area which contains a minimum of 1 hide in each of the 4 elements: containers, interior, exterior, vehicle (number of hides change based on level).

A Q (aka “leg”) is earned for each element a team successfully locates the hide(s) within the allotted time. When all 4 legs (a Q in every element) are earned a title is awarded.

Element legs earned are cumulative and do not need to be earned within the same trial. 

K9 SSG

K9 SSG trials are divided into 3 components or “Skills“): Interior, Exterior, and Containers. 

A Q is earned by successfully identifying all hides within the allotted time without incurring more than one fault. A Skills title is earned from 3 Qs within a given Skill. A Level title is earned when all 3 Skills titles within a level are earned.  

Qs are cumulative and do not need to be earned within the same trial.

SDDA

SDDA is comprised of 3 components: Interior, Containers, and Exteriors.

Teams earn a Q by obtaining a score of at least 50% and locating all hides (or identifying ‘clear’ search areas).  A Q must be earned in each of the 3 components at the corresponding level to earn a title.  

Component Qs are cumulative and do not need to be earned within the same trial at Started, Advanced, and Excellent levels. Elite titles require all components to be passed at the same trial. 

NACSW™

NACSW is comprised of 4 components: Interior, Containers, Exterior, and Vehicles. 

Teams earn a Q by successfully identifying the location of all hides in a search (or identifying a ‘clear’ search area). A team must Q in all searches within the same trial to earn a title.

As of Jan 1 2020 new rules for NW3 title will be in place. Details are TBD at the time of this article’s publication.

Target Odours

In the following table a comma (,) denotes ‘and/or’  — any combination of the odours may be present. Note that K9SSG trials and K9 ABC Games trials give the host an option of using the odour set traditionally associated with SDDA trials or that usually associated with NACSW trials.

CKC

C-WAGS

K9 ABC Games

K9 SSG

SDDA

NACSW

Instinct:
Wintergreen
Patrol (L1):
Birch, Cypress
Single Odor:
Birch or
Wintergreen
Novice:
Birch or 
Wintergreen
Started:
Wintergreen
NW1:
Birch
Novice:
Wintergreen
Detective (L2):
Birch, Cypress, Clove
Double Odor:
Birch, Anise or 
Wintergreen, Pine

Advanced:
Birch, Anise or 
Wintergreen, Pine

Advanced:
Wintergreen, Pine
NW2:
Birch, Anise
Open:
Wintergreen, Pine
Investigator (L3):
Birch, Cypress, Clove, Anise
Triple Odor:
Birch, Anise, Clove or
Wintergreen, Pine, Thyme
Excellent:
Birch, Anise, Clove or
Wintergreen, Pine, Thyme
Excellent:
Wintergreen, Pine, Thyme
NW3:
Birch, Anise, Clove
Excellent:
Wintergreen, Pine, Anise
Super Sleuth (L4):
Birch, Cypress, Clove, Anise
Elite:
Wintergreen, Pine, Thyme

Elite:
Birch, Anise, Clove

Master:
Birch, Cypress, Anise, Clove
Private Investigator (L5):
Birch, Cypress, Clove, Anise
Summit:
Birch, Anise, Clove

Detective Diversions (L6):
Birch, Cypress, Clove, Anise

Rules Links

Before entering a trial with any organization you’ll want to read their rules. This will give you a much better idea of what to expect than a summary like this post can do! Different organizations vary in their rules from faults, acceptable equipment, dog-dog contact at trials and more.  

Ready to learn more about each organization and see their full rules?  Here’s a set of links for you!

Want more?

If you found this overview helpful and would like to see similar articles in the future, leave a comment and let me know!

If you found an error in this article, please send me an email or leave a comment and I will fix it ASAP.