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  • Liz MacHaffie

Nosework for Fun: Getting Started

Updated: Apr 29




You'll need a few supplies to play this fun and engaging game with your dog!


Odor and Tins!


The first thing you'll need for nosework is essential oil for at least one target odor. (Often Birch essential oil is the first.) You can buy a nosework kit that's pre-made for you, or you can make your own. (This one (the “student” box in particular) is a popular pre-made one.)

  • To make your own, you’d need a glass jar, a few small metal tins (I use empty lip balm containers off of Amazon and drill holes in the tops), about 20 cotton sawbs, 1 cotton ball, and your essential oil.

  • Take 20 cotton swabs and cut them in half. (Nail trimmers work nicely for this!)

  • Put 4-5 drops of the oil on a cotton ball.

  • Place the cotton ball in the glass jar with the cotton swabs. Let sit for about 24 hours.

  • After 24 hours, use tweezers to take the cotton ball out. Then, you keep the scented cotton swabs in here until you’re ready to place them in your odor tin!

  • For your odor tin, take your small metal container and make 3-5 small holes in it. You'll place 3-5 cotton swab halves in a tin.)

Remember to put any odor away in an airtight container when you're not using it!



Here's an odor tin with holes drilled in it (left) and a nosework training container (right) made from the materials below!


Nosework Training Containers


For making your own odor container boxes, you can use nearly anything that you can put your little odor tins in!


I like the metal boxes below because I can put a strong magnet in the odor tin and it sits in there securely! With gentle dogs, you could use Tupperware containers, heavy mugs, or anything that will fit your odor tins! Here's how to make them out of electrical boxes:

  • Obtain 5 or more of the Raised Ground Welded Square Electrical boxes (4") from Home Depot or Lowes. I choose the taller of the two options (1 7/8") because I like it to have some more weight and depth.

  • Obtain 5 or more covers for the boxes (mud rings). Fasten them with the lip of the ring turned down into the box.

  • Keep one container as the designated “hot” container (and label it with a Sharpie). This is the container you will put your scent tin in.

  • You can put a magnet inside the scent tin to help keep it inside the box.

  • The rest of the containers are “cold” containers (NO birch odor) and should not be exposed to the scent tin.



That's it, now you're ready to introduce the odor to your dog!

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