Select Page


Official Rules & Exercise Descriptions for each Level

NW Level 3 – General overview

General overview

Level 3 is designed to test the dog’s ability to remain focused on the search despite intentional distractions, multiple scent cones, lack of odor, larger areas and deep hides. Challenges will continue to build on the requirements for TEAM 2.

Target Odor: The handler may use any target odor or combination of target odor provided that the hide is not paired with food. The target odor must be specified with the submission in the field Odor(s) used in submission.

Indication: No specific or formal behavior is required at source. Dog must exhibit an obvious change of behavior in a way that is obvious to an outside individual who is fluent in nosework.

Required Calls: “Handler must say “Alert” or raise hand when their dog has communicated they have found target odor. The Alert call must come before rewarding your dog and should be the handler’s first confirmation of their dog finding the hide. The Handler must say “Finish” in all searches to end the search. If a hide is shown, the Finish call must come before showing the hide(s).

Odor Hygiene: A very important aspect in scent detection is Odor Hygiene. We must do all we can to avoid contamination!! If you get oil on your hands and then touch objects in your environment or search area, the scent can linger for months. Make sure qtips are securely in straws and will not fall out. Clean the outside of your tins, and don’t reuse putty that can retain and leave odor behind. Take precaution when handling hides when placing and picking up.

Gear: Flat collar, martingale collars, limited slip, back clip harness, any length leash is allowed including retractable leashes. Dogs can run with no collar or harness if in a safe area (at home/inside). NOT ALLOWED are: prongs, head halters, no-pull harnesses front or dorsal clip.

Equipment: 2 different target odor (specified), scent vessel (tin, straw), collar/harness, leash, containers, 12 containers, any kind that have closed tops, 2 vehicles, furniture/objects for making an obstacle. The same odor can be used for service and professionally trained detection dogs who are specifically trained on one odor.

Hide Placement: Known (no blind hides) and require that the handler’s body language does not give away the location of the hide. Hide must be accessible so that dog can get to source. Dog may not watch the handler place the hides.

Handler must show 1 hide from any search to the camera after the end of the search while the camera is still running.

Handler can show hide in 1 of 4 ways:
– Handler can show by picking up hide immediately after rewarding dog and showing to camera.
– Handler can put dog away and go back to show hide, but dog and handler can NOT both leave view of camera.
– Handler can take camera to show hide placement once dog is put away, but handler must remain in camera view at all times until the handler picks up the camera.
– A Helper can remove the hide and show it to the camera while the handler remains in camera view.

Discrete Hide Placement: Scent Aid needs to be securely in a vessel. Vessel cannot be visible to the dog or by human eye. For Level 3 Containers, the hide should not be obvious to the dog during the search. If transparent containers are used, the hide should not be visible to the human eye. Suggest placing tissue/newspaper inside the container or placing the hide on the inside lid.

Max Search Height: Height accessible to dog.

Location:  Any location

Safety: It is the handler’s responsibility to ensure a safe working environment. This would require removal of chemical cans (gasoline, etc.) or objects that could cause harm and especially not placing a hide on anything that could endanger the dog. In vehicle searches, the dog should not go under the vehicle any further than their shoulders. Leash management can also be a safety issue if the handler or dog gets tangled in the leash. If you are working off leash, ensure it is a safe area for your dog.

Camera View and Set-up: Video quality and sound must allow search to be judged.

– Judge must be able to hear your “Alert” call or see your hand raised.
– Hide location must be in view when dog indicates.
– Handler must be in view when dog sources hide and can not be momentarily out of view.
– In Exercise 3-3 Blank Interior, the handler and dog must be in view when Finish is called.
– Handler cannot hold camera or wear an action camera (such as a GoPro).
– Multiple camera angles are NOT allowed.
– Having a helper video your search is allowed.
– Dog must be in view at all times. Any momentary out of view would be discretion of judge and could be Questionable.
– If dog is momentarily out of view, handler MUST be in view.
– To fully judge the team, the Handler’s entire body should be in view of the camera for the majority of the search. Occasionally part of your body may be out of the frame. In that case your upper body should still be visible. We recognize that the handler may go out of camera range for short periods of time to avoid crowding their dog or due to search space/camera location.
– Consideration made for being behind or around the backside of a vehicle or other objects in search area.
– NO speeding up of video is allowed.

Start line: A start line marker must be visible and obvious to the judge in the video. Start lines can be marked with cones, tape, water bottles, door threshold or whatever is available. In tight spaces with limited camera angles, the start line can include your dog coming into a room or quickly into the camera view.

Cues: The dog should not exhibit confusion or delayed searching activity in response to the search cue (verbal or non-verbal) given by the handler. A second cue can be given, however the handler should not give additional search cues.

Handling: The dog should be driving the search the majority of the time. The handler cannot point at the hide or in any way influence the location. The judge should not be able to figure out the hide location prior to the dog finding the hide based on the handler’s body language. Handler can not touch anything in the search area unless to protect their dog from something falling or if their dog gets caught or tangled with something. Handler should not drop leash during the search unless circumstances require for the safety of the dog.

Leash Management: Good leash handling is an important part of nosework. Poor leash handling that causes the leash to drag behind the dog or get caught on objects can disrupt a search area and distract the dog. Allowing the leash to get tangled around your dog is also distracting and can be a safety issue. A questionable pass may be scored for excessive search area disruption from the leash or if the dog’s effectiveness is severely impacted by poor leash management or tangling.

Reinforcement/Reward Delivery: Reinforcement is allowed for rewarding an indication and to motivate if needed. Food rewards need to be delivered to the dog and not placed on the ground. The intent for this program is to practice good etiquette so that a trial search area is not contaminated or compromised. Toy rewards are allowed as long as the search area is not compromised.

Maximum video length: 8 minutes for all 6 searches merged into ONE video submission. Any time over this limit will result in a NY. Playlists will not be accepted.

Sample Video:

Exercise 3-1: Containers with Food Distraction

This exercise tests the dog’s odor obedience and ability to avoid food distractions in container searches, specifically food in the Dairy group.  The search is set up in a way so that the dog encounters the food distraction before getting to the hot container. 

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Exercise 3-2: Interior Hide in Corner

This interior search tests that the dog will work into corners of a search area.  The hide (invisible to the dog) must be accessible in nature and placed on an object in the corner of a search area.

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Exercise 3-3: Blank Interior

As a dog moves up the levels, it’s essential that they understand and be comfortable working in the presence of no odor without feeling the urge to alert.  Additionally, the dog must be able to actively search and clear the area.  This search is accomplished indoors in a search area where no odor has been placed.

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Exercise 3-4: Deep Accessible

The Deep Accessible Search builds the dog’s ability to drive to source and ultimately helps the dog to develop inaccessible hide skills.  In this search, the dog must source a hide that has been placed in a way that the dog has to push into the space, while under physical environmental pressure such as a tight space or highly cluttered area.

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Exercise 3-5: Exterior Multiple Hides

 The Multiple Hide Exterior search requires the dog to work 2 hides in close proximity to each other (no further than 8 feet apart).  The dog must be able to work both hides without pairing or handler direction.  This requires that the dog be able to disengage with the first hide in order to find the second.

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Exercise 3-6: Multiple Vehicle Search

In the Multiple Vehicle search (2 vehicles), the dog must be able to find 1 hide in either a wheel spoke/hubcab, license plate, or hitch in such a way that the dog encounters a vehicle without odor prior to searching the vehicle with odor.

Click to see video examples, details and judging criteria

Additional Resources

Click on image to Download

(For convenience only.  Please rely on the website exercise pages for details, updates, examples and judging criteria.)