NW150: Scent Theory and Dynamics

Instructor: Lucy Newton

Course Details

There are a wide variety of sports and tasks that require the dog to use his nose and sense of smell to be successful: Tracking. Nosework. Truffle hunting. Barn hunt. Scent Discrimination. In all these venues, as well as practical applications, our ability to understand what scent is and how it can be influenced by the environment plays a vital role in the dog's success. Even more importantly, such understanding allows us to correctly set up training scenarios that allow the dog to develop skill and experience. 

With any scent work, we are not teaching the dog how to scent, but rather we are setting up a situation that allows the dog to hone a skill that he possess genetically. By understanding scent and scent dynamics, we can correctly interpret why the dog did what he did in a training scenario. We can also avoid over-facing him in training scenarios.

The purpose of this class is to discuss what scent is and discuss the variables that can influence it, such as the influence of temperature, air currents, obstacles, terrain, aging, wind, humidity, and other characteristics of scent and scent dynamics.

There will be a lot of information in the lectures. In addition, for gold students there will a homework assignments specific for tracking and/or nosework for each week. The homework will consist of setting up a simple hide or track, watching the dog work, and then, using what you are learning, attempt to explain why the dog worked the problem the way he did. You can only enroll one dog per gold spot; however, you can either switch back and forth between the two (if you have a dog that does both), or you can work either your tracking dog or nosework dog. You can only enroll one dog though!

Here is an example of a dog searching a small area for a hide. THe smoke allows you to get a general idea of what the air flow migh look like while he is searching.


There are no scheduled sessions for this class at this time. We update our schedule frequently, so please subscribe to our mailing list for notifications.

Registration starts at 11:00 AM PDT.

Enrollment limits: Gold: 12 students, Silver: 25 students, Bronze: unlimited. If you are interested in bronze level, you can sign up any time during the registration period.

For answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.


Lecture Topics include:

Anatomy and Physiology of the Olfaction System

What is scent? Types of scent?

What is odor or scent?

How scent moves

Influences on Scent Flow and Dynamics




Influence of Aging on Scent

Effects of obstacles on scent - buildings, bodies of water

Ground surfaces and how they influence scent

Snow, rain, and other environmental conditions

Prerequisites and Equipment

No prerequisites for bronze and silver level.

Students at the gold level should be working a dog in either nosework or tracking. You do not need to be advanced in either of those venues but the dog should be beyond the basic learning phase. You will be setting up training scenarios, then working the dog in the exercise and then collecting data regarding what occurred and why. So rather than trying to predict what the dog will do, we try to let the dog demonstrate what the scent was doing and then try to determine why he performed the way he did. By pairing these observations we truly learn to "read the dog" and to develop an appreciation for how sophisticated their scenting skills really are.  If you are working a dog in some other scent detection discipline, besides tracking or nosework, and are interested in a gold spot please discuss with Lucy whether the homework would fit your training discipline.

Smoke matches or (preferably) a "Wizard Stick" (http://www.incrediblescience.com/wizard-stick-fog-generator.html or http://www.amazon.com)




Course Testimonials


This class has been amazing and very thought provoking in what may be happening environmentally and what effect that may be having on the dogs performance in scent sports.         

Loved this class. It was fascinating and enlightening! Really helpful class for anyone who wants to get involved in an nose or scent work with their dog. Diana S            

I have thoroughly enjoyed this course. I came into it wanting to improve my understanding of scent. I definitely have done that, but I now also have tools and approaches that I will be able to use to continue learning more about it. It's definitely a very complex subject! Brenda Lund and Pic the Scottish Deerhound           

There was so much wonderful information in this course. Thank you so much! I hope to take it at the gold level in the future :)              

This is an ideal course for anyone interested in nose work. Lectures and video applicable to all levels. Well done! Kathy W.          

If you have any interest at all in how dogs do what they do with their noses, this is the class to take. Absolutely fabulous video and lecture. I've been tracking for 20+ years with my dogs and I learned a TON from this class. Thanks, Lucy! Joan A.      

Another home run by Lucy! Her classes make all the difference in the world for my dog's tracking and nosework.              

This was by far the BEST class I have taken. It was absolutely amazing. The information and the instruction were more than I hope for. Have been waiting to learn this information for awhile and was thrilled with the class.