© 2018 by Holly Bushard.

Scentwork Tool Box


One of the great things about Scentwork is that you can play the game at the highest levels with very little “stuff.” And the “stuff” is cheap! That said, there are items that simplify training. Here is a short list for your consideration!


Nosework Essentials:

You must have oil. The first odor is Birch.



Get 100% therapeutic grade Sweet Birch. You can buy it (and everything else you will ever need for nosework) at http://www.thek9nose.com . And here it is for less than $5 on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mystic-Moments-Birch-Sweet-Essential/dp/B004YQ0OBQ/ref=sr_1_8_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1531914939&sr=8-8&keywords=sweet+birch+essential+oil


If you are sure you are going to play the game long term, grab the other oils. They are Aniseed and Clove. Do not just get Anise or Anise Star. Again, you can get them at the K9nose or any place else that sells essential oils. Way down the road, if you play in the AKC, you will also need cypress.


Once you have your oils, you need a glass jar and a few Q-tips. The Q-tips must have paper stems, NOT plastic. The plastic will melt and turn icky and actually change the odor. The glass jar should have a metal lid and not have an over-powering residual odor (think pickle jar!). The glass jar can come right out of your recycling bin, there is no need to buy one. The Q-tip can come right out of your bathroom cabinet. You don’t need many. Cut the Q-tips in half and throw them in the clean glass jar. We can add oil later.

Oil Prep: There are so many ways to prep oil! Being inconsistent is probably best because over the course of your career, you are going to encounter all sorts of different concentrations. In the AKC, there will be 2 drops per half Q-tip. In NACSW, there will be a couple of drops added to the bottom of the jar and 10-20 Q-tips added and shaken in the jar after that. And you will encounter everything in between. Don’t over-think oil! Find something in the middle of this. Early on, lean towards using lots of odor.

Finally, you will need containers to put the Q-tips in while you are training. It is CRITICAL that your Q-tips not touch stuff. Once they do, they leave oil behind and dogs will be alerting on the transferred oil for a long time. You can choose to use as many of these as you want but only actually need to own one or two. Here are things can contain your tips:

A Pill Bottle: Though not safe for storage (because the plastic will melt) this is an inexpensive good choice for getting started. Just wash your old bottle and add a few holes with a drill.

A Tin: I just use a hammer and a screw driver to knock in a few holes. Just make sure you add them from the top of the lid so the sharp edges are on the bottom where the dog won’t touch them and get scraped. You can order tins on Amazon, get them in stores, or order from the K9nose.com. (You can get them with smiley faces there!)


Heat Shrink Straws: Just cut to the desired length, stuff in a Q-tip and go! Buy a roll of the stuff and divide it up with your training partners.



The things listed above are things you will definitely need. I am now going to add things that are optional but make life much easier. First off, it’s really nice if you can store all of your used stuff (called Hot stuff) in an airtight container so odor isn’t always floating around in your house. For less than $10, you can buy an ammo box or a marine box in the sporting goods section at Fleet or Walmart. You can put all of your hot items (used stuff that has touched oils) in there. You can also store your oil bottle in there. I love the roomy ammo-marine box for storing my kit at home. Another option is a waterproof box like the kind you can buy in the camping equipment section. It’s small and ideal for throwing in your car or a duffle bag when you want to take the show on the road.

I like owning one of each, but you don’t actually NEED either one. I like having a little mini-kit for portability but I love the space in the larger box too.






In each kit, I like to have a tweezers so I don’t have to touch the Q-tips and I have latex gloves to reduce contamination as well. I also like to have adhesive for applying hides. This is what I use. You can buy it in the office supply section. I just put a short strip of it in my training kit so I don’t have to lug around the whole pack. I keep a small scissors in my kit to cut the Loctite/museum putty. Many people will also put magnets in their tins so they can stick them to metal surfaces without adhesive. Any strong magnet will do.

In addition to the kit, I like to keep containers on hand for training. I like having a set of plastic containers because you can stack them up inside of each other and they take up very little space. This helps with storage and makes it easier to take them on the road. Plus, dogs don’t wreck them as fast and you can use them for years. Here are some of the container sets that I own. Because I coach many diverse teams of competitors, I have several different sets of plastic boxes. I think it’s a nice idea to try to own one set. I would want about 8 of them. The Dollar Store is a great place to find cheap ones that will work nicely. All of mine were no more than one dollar each.


Small ones for small dogs or for simple games and larger ones that are well-vented for beginner dogs:




Later, I like to have less vented containers for training on the road:


At some point, you will be training and competing on these types of boxes. Owning a few is probably a good idea before you start trialing:


When you are getting started, the best boxes to use are the ones you have on hand. Shipping boxes, shoe boxes, cereal boxes, ALL boxes can be used. In fact, I even keep a collection of little boxes so I can literally dump about 100 boxes in a room and let my dogs search them all!


The longer you stay in the sport, the more little things you will accumulate. It’s unavoidable. However, please know that you can play the game very well for less than $20 if you supplement your collection with items out of your recycling bin. This sport is all about sending dogs searching and having fun. It costs close to nothing to enjoy it all!

Happy Training!

Holly