So what happens when you have a talented dog with little environmental issues?  Well….  odds are, you might very well find yourself with your dog at his/her third Nosework trial facing NW3 down the barrel.  To say the least, this is scary and the odds of you being successful initially are not that great!  You might actually be a No-Virgin…  something to be proud of yet not really very easy to sustain or even that realistic in NW3.

What happens when you have a dog who is very environmental?  Well…  you hang out A LOT at NW1 and NW2.  Some of these folks lose momentum, hope or even trust in their dogs.  There always seems to be just that one thing….  even a truly great handler can get stuck.

What happens when you have an Elite level dog and all of a sudden the trials have just gotten even fewer and farther between?  B-O-R-E-D-O-M….  Where do you trial?  If you’re lucky you can get into an Elite Division Trial and maybe not have to drive 1,000 miles…  but so far these are few and far between…  Maybe your training slacks off a bit… maybe your emphasis on sports changes.  But what you are left with is a finely tuned partner who probably enjoys trialing Nosework, with little option available to you.

The answer to all of these questions has a common denominator.  The answer may not be available to everyone yet but grass roots are growing!  There are small organizations across the country starting to pop up and fill this special niche.  Trials and titling options are available and usually no crazy lottery is needed (yet anyway) in order to enter.

One such organization called Performance Scent Dogs has originated on the East Coast.  Most of the trials are held in Massachusetts and New Hampshire but I know for a fact that there is momentum to expand into New York and Pennsylvania at the very least.  Other organizations dot the country as all are grass roots efforts and are filling demand for trialing in this sport that is still very much in it’s infancy.

Because I live in NJ, I’m in a decent location to play in PSD.  Out of my dogs, two are environmental and need mileage and one has an Elite title and loves, loves, loves trialing in Nosework.  Although this blog highlights PSD, there are other organizations out there too, including UKC among others that might be more accessible to folks across the country.  So for now, between NACSW trials, I play in PSD (among others such as UKC and I plan to try SDDA in Ontario).

Performance Scent Dogs has three levels: Novice, Advanced and Excellent, which roughly correspond in difficulty to NW1, NW2 and NW3 in search complexity.  IF your dog already has an NW3, you are welcome to jump to Advanced.  There are five classes which in some cases are similar to NACSW and in some cases are very different.  Scoring is based on time however you can receive (or lose points) for handling excellence (or errors).  The classes are: Speed, Distance, Containers, Buildings and Exteriors.  The really cool thing is that you can earn titles in each class with 3 passes, moving up (or not if you chose) as you earn them.  You might or might not be able to enter each of the classes at each trial.  The classes offered are variable!

There is something called a Target Odor Test (TOT) which is akin to an ORT.  And…  if you already have an ORT pass, the TOT is optional.  In the case of a TOT, chairs are used rather than boxes.  The idea is that if your dog is nervous, getting the nose down can be a challenge.  The dogs seem to like this format!

Here’s a video of Anne and Indie doing an Anise TOT.  Indie is VERY environmental and somewhat reactive.  You’ll notice some displacement sniffing but hopefully you also notice the calm demeanor of Anne and the way she stays out of Indie’s proximity and let’s her work.  Anne and Indie are students of mine.  You will also hear talking in the background…  at PSD, you are allowed to watch and observe after your run is complete.  What you hear on the video is simply trial noise.  Indie had a chance to acclimate in the building before her run (giving reactive dogs space is still a priority however).

Here are a few more videos…

Here’s Why competing in Novice Containers.  Notice the similarity between NACSW and PSD here?  However, in PSD, the Novice Containers are likely closer together, may be elevated or anything else creative (including combining different types of boxes).  Novice Containers is closer to what you might find at a NACSW Level 1 Container Trial.

Advanced Containers gets really tricky!  I have one run on video.  In this run there were many small boxes closely set with several intentional distractions.  Here Judd ignores incense, a banana peel and a muffin wrapper to find two hides.

The other thing you might notice is that this trial is taking place in a training facility!  Yes, ideally you trial in a pristine odor-free environment…  however with PSD, there are few restrictions, and dogs sometimes have to deal with lingering odor.  In fact, you are usually able to enter more than one dog in a class and the hide is moved at the end of the class so that you can run a second dog.  Sure, it’s not ideal….  but it means more dogs can play and dogs who already understand how to work through lingering odor are at an advantage!  This organization is much less about winning and rather about having fun with your Nosework Dog.

There is another really fun class called Speed.  In Novice, there are three sets of three boxes with one hide in each and you have a minute to find all three hides.  In Advanced, one of the sets of three does not contain odor.  This is a FUN class and the dogs seem to really love it.  I have Advanced Speed on video with Judd.  He won this class earning his Advanced Speed title with by less than a second.

Distance is another class that is unique to PSD.  It’s similar to agility gamblers or AKC FAST in terms of there being a Gamble Line.  In this case, the handler stands on one side of the line and the dog searches on the other.  This can be indoors or out and can include Vehicles!  In Novice, the distance is 5 feet.  In Advanced it is 10 feet.  How many of us can successfully work our dogs at a distance of 10 feet on leash?  Here’s a video of Joey earning his Novice Distance title.  Joey is an environmental and highly reactive dog.

Buildings is similar to NACSW Interiors and Exteriors is pretty much the same except that Vehicles can be present!

This weekend when I ran the boys, I was able to compete with all three boys and execute a total of 16 searches.  They came home with a boatload of pretty rosettes and a few titles to boot!  Novice Speed: Why, Novice Distance: Joey and Advanced Speed: Judd.  This was my third PSD trial and I am planning on many more.  In fact, we are planning on bringing PSD to Stroudsburg, PA using the facility Sit Stay N Play (one of the places where I teach) and I wouldn’t be surprised if this starts to spread like wildfire.

For more information about Performance Scent Dogs please visit:

In all…  I find the smaller venues to be fun, laid back and really just a blast.  What more fun can you have than doing Nosework with your dog?  If you have a small organization near you, support them!  You will be happy that you did 🙂

Happy Sniffing!!