Nosework: Enrichment For Every Dog

By: EricaWells
Erica  is a Certified Nose Work Instructor (CNWI) through the National Association of Canine Scent Work. She teaches Agility and K9 Nose work classes, both sports she participates and competes in with her rescued Brittany Spaniel, Mimi and newest monster, Gator.


I am passionate about dogs using their noses. The dog olfactory system fills the majority of their brain and their sense of smell is light years beyond our own. We are only just scratching the surface learning about the magic of what dogs can smell and what they can teach us through the use of their powerful nose!

My introduction to the sport of K9 Nosework began when my newly adopted Brittany puppy was about 5 months old. She was a VERY busy puppy, far busier than any dog I had ever owned and the first puppy I’d had in about 20 years! While she got plenty of exercise and we did plenty of training, something was missing. I saw a flyer somewhere about a workshop coming to town about “the new sport of k9 Nosework” for dogs of all ages-so I went! It was transformative. Suddenly, my crazy puppy had an outlet using her nose for good and not evil! The only issue was that she wasn’t very food motivated, I mean, she really didn’t care about food at all, BUT she was already a crazy ball dog so we used her ball. She hunted for stinky treats in boxes and got rewarded with her ball. 10 minutes of playing the game and she was actually able to settle, it gave her an outlet and made our training sessions for the “boring stuff” more productive when we trained after doing a bit of Nosework. I was amazed at how well the game worked and wanted to find out more-so when the National Association of Canine Scentwork (NACSW, had their first instructor training course outside of California I signed on and the rest is history. Ive been teaching K9 Nosework for 8.5 years now and loving every minute of it.

The sport has grown and grown with multiple venues signing on including United Kennel Club (UKC) and American Kennel Club (AKC) but many folks in my classes just want something to do with their dog, they don’t compete and don’t plan to compete but those dogs’ noses are just as sharp and as amazing as any competition dog. In NACSW the venue I do most of my trialing in we use the target odors of Birch, Anise and Clove. The dogs hunt for these odors on vehicles, interiors, container searches (think card board boxes, backpacks, luggage, tupperware-almost anything goes) and the dog’s job is to “alert” the handler that they have found their target odor. Some dogs do this by looking at the handler, lying down, sitting, a light paw or a nose freeze. There are MANY different alerts but the one thing all the dogs have in common is they stop sniffing! It’s our job to know if they are telling us they have “FOUND IT”.

One of the things I love about Nosework whether it is the dog hunting for cookies in boxes or competing at the highest level (in some venues) dogs who are reactive can still play the game. It is a wonderful way to enrich a reactive dogs life-even if you are just heading out to a sniff spot-why not bring a long some containers and hide some treats or toys for your pup to find or just bring hands full of kibble and spread the love around for him like a canine treasure hunt! Their noses are amazing and they LOVE to use them. My elderly reactive dog who was also a terrible car dog loved to play the Nosework game at home. He did learn the target odor birch but mostly he just wanted to find food, wherever he could!!

Most Nosework classes will accommodate dog reactive dogs because dogs work solo. Each dog has a turn in a Nosework class and no other dogs are present. They are either beyond a barrier, crated in another area or in cars when it is not their turn. I’ve had some dogs who are even people reactive in my classes. We can make almost anything work so that every dog has an opportunity to experience the fun of Nosework. After teaching for so many years I’ve also seen something magical happen in dogs whose confidence was lacking and exhibited shyness or fear in the early classes. As their owners worked with them, they started to open up. It is truly a joyful experience to see a dog who when first came in to the search area would not even get near the open box full of cookies to a dog that sometimes even in a few weeks time was happily running about the room HUNTING for their treasure. It has literally brought me to tears on more than one occasion.

My little “parma-foster” now almost 10 year old Mimi led me in to Nosework and then to the wonderful world of truffle hunting which I LOVE because it gets me outdoors on trails in the quiet wet winters of the PNW. She also led me to my second Brittany, Gator, now 2, who is using his nose on counters, in competition, in the truffle forest AND in a bird field in hunt tests and field trials and I may even learn to fire a shotgun! That is something I NEVER thought I would be doing. Never say never. Your dog’s nose really is the path to many a splendid thing!

You can find me on facebook at, @k9snifftimeseattle on instagram and teaching classes through:

Happy Hunting!


About Sniffspot

Sniffspot is like Airbnb, but for off leash dog spaces. Anyone can earn money from sharing their yard as an off leash dog space. Anyone can find the perfect nearby off leash space for their pup to play in.

You can learn more about how it works at

You can learn more about hosting here.

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Host Tips: Ellen K. What Makes Sniffspot Successful for Me

Ellen is the host of Country Pasture Getaway, one of Sniffspot’s most popular sniff spots. She has taken the time to write up the lessons she has learned about how to be a great sniff spot host.

​Last year, when I first considered offering my field as a sniff spot,  I was apprehensive.  I had a ton of questions and I worried a bit about the dogs and people being on my field.   I wanted responsible people who respected my privacy and my dogs.   David helped a lot by talking to me about liability, how the app works, and how much control I had.   So we plunged in!   And we are really HAPPY with the results!

People who come to my sniff spot out in the country have made a commitment to their dogs.  Every person I have met is really invested in having the field clean and safe for their dogs.    What makes it work?

  1. I try to respond to a request for a reservation within a couple of hours.   People are trying to plan their calendar around weather, work and dog, so I try to respond quickly.  Address, and directions of where to park are included.
  2. USE THE CALENDAR!   If you have a friend coming out and don’t want to have a Sniffspot visitor at the time, block off your time.   Remember to block out vacations or days when you need to work on the field/play area.   If you just need a day to zone out, just block off the day on the calendar.  
  3. I meet every person the first time they come out.   I like doing that….I can show them where the water spigot is, explain the difference in fencing and point out the stupid mole holes!   It’s great to meet people and get an idea of what they are looking for.   Some of the dogs have been highly reactive, so it’s been great if they come and not even see my dogs.   Some owners have asked me to allow one of my Wolfhounds to play with their dog.  I use my best judgement and have had a few of the visitors end up being great play buddies. 
  4. We have stainless steel water buckets for your use.  Extra toys and a chuck it are right by the gate.   The water hose is stretched over so on hot days you can even spray your dog down.   We have a picnic bench in the field for people to sit at if they like. 
  5. I try to make people feel welcome, but I don’t spend very long with them…maybe 3-5 minutes.  After that, they get to enjoy the field.   

Host Tips: Fran T. Providing Great Guest Service At Our Spot

Fran is the host of Ranch Setting, one of Sniffspot’s most popular spots. She has taken the time to write up the lessons she has learned about how to be a great Sniffspot host.

Back in February 2018 when we excitedly dove into offering a spot. Our goal was to provide service that reflects our appreciation, compassion, honesty, and respect for our guests and their beloved pets and/or fosters. This is still our goal every day with every guest. Its starts with a warm welcome on the first visit and then privacy for them to enjoy their time with their pet(s).

A component of this philosophy is listening to what our guests like and what we can change to allow us to serve a wide variety of needs. They have been an integral part of what we offer providing useful suggestions that we’ve incorporated into our Sniff Spot. We feel that being open to change is important to improvements. We like to put ourselves in our guest’s shoes asking, “What would we like to see at a spot”? I think convenience is part of the answer. It needs to be easy to find water, toys, pet waste bags, and waste cans so a guest doesn’t need to “pack it out”. If you’re like me, I would rather not have pet waste in my vehicle!

Providing all the basics and the little seasonal extras such as hot and cold beverages, sunscreen, hand warmers, snacks, covered seating, and such is born from our desire to make our guests comfortable in our sometimes unpredictable Pacific Northwest weather. We include as many amenities as we can think of like a charging station, a portable blue tooth speaker, and every now and again a few pet periodicals. We hope that providing those convenience items help our guests to better enjoy their time here with their pup.  

The pups also have their convenience items like treats, clean,  rotated, high interests toys, and several fenced areas to run. As I type this, I think, “what additional amenities can we include?” But I am often reminded it can be all about the “SNIFFS for some pups!”.

With all that said, safety is paramount to guest confidence. It’s actually the first thing we think about each day when prepping for our daily guests. Guests will find a pet first aid book and supplies. We greatly appreciate when a guest lets us know if there are any safety concerns they become aware of in our fields, and of course, we are dedicated to immediately remedying any issues.  

We think good communication with a focus on letting the guests know what to expect is paramount in easing any guest anxiety. Knowing ahead of time about temporary activities like landscapers, and neighboring activity at our Sniff spot is important to our guests. With communication in mind, we believe that timely responses to our sniff spot guests are very important.

In addition, our goal is to be familiar with any anxiety or reactive issues with our guest’s dog’s and in doing so it gives us an opportunity to adjust the Sniff Spot environment for that pup if at possible.  

We enjoy letting our guests know how much we appreciate them by greeting them with a personal message on our whiteboard as well as a “First visit” welcome gift. We also enjoy showing our guests our appreciation by hosting free drawings for pet-related prizes. We think guest service is about our love for the guest and their pets and hope our guests feel valued. Happy Sniffing!

Host Tips: Patrick F. Offering A Spot

Patrick is the host of Sammamish/a fenced half acre to run in, one of Sniffspot’s most popular spots. He has taken the time to write up the lessons he has learned about how to be a great Sniffspot host.

We were attracted to the idea of offering a spot for a number of reasons. We spent 24 glorious years raising and nurturing English Bulldogs. If you know the breed you know they can be difficult at dog parks. They are delighted by and gentle with people but they want to run the show in a dog pack setting. We took our Bulldogs to dog parks when they were young but quit going once they demonstrated a strong desire to manage the behavior of other dogs.

After our second Buddy’s passing, we discovered Sniffspot from a news source.  We thought the concept was perfect for pet owners who want to spend quality time with their reactive dog or simply quality time with their dog while training or socializing. After doing our due diligence, we decided to move ahead and become hosts.

Our spot has become popular in the past year. We live on five acres in Sammamish [a suburb of Seattle] so we are conveniently located (close to a road but not so close to cause disruptions to our guests). We carved out a half acre of fenced property with short and tall grass for playing and exploring. There is a creek that runs along the back of the property so be prepared for muddy paws if your dog is attracted to water.

We have ample parking, easy access to the pasture through a gate, a couple of chairs, water bowl, toys and even a bright red fire hydrant just for fun.

We want the guests to have a quality experience:

  • Scheduling is easy and convenient for guests. The calendar shows when spots are available. Choose your time slot and you are done. No need to wait for a reply.
  • We have no pets at this time unless you count the six chickens (the chickens are in a pen a considerable distance from the Sniffspot and have not caused any distractions as far as we can tell).
  • We go out of our way to respect the privacy for our customers. We minimize our coming and going as much as possible while guests are present.
  • We don’t need to meet you in person. No offense. Dog people are great people and we trust you to respect the spot so you can continue to enjoy the quality time with your pet(s).
  • Bring your own water and towels and enjoy.

Video: Sniffspot Host Tips For Success

At Sniffspot, our mission is to make the world a more dog friendly. As a host on Sniffspot, you participate in this mission and vision. We put together this video to help set YOU up for success with us. We’ve spent a lot of time listening, reading, researching, and conversing with hosts and guests to understand what success looks and feels like. If you’d like to follow along, download the slides we’ll be covering here.

Check out the following minute marks to hear about specific topics of interest:

  • How to create a great spot listing – minute 2:23
  • How to provide the best experience to guests – minute 18:39
  • How to market your spot – minute 33:14

​We also recommend you check out our Help Center for detailed information about what it takes to be successful as a host: