What is a Detective Search?

AKC Scent Work is a relatively new event for AKC, and as such has plenty of room for growth! They have 4 levels of competition - Novice, Advanced, Excellent, and Master. They also have one additional class "level" called Detective that is only open for dogs that have achieved a Master title.

Chapter 9.1: "The Detective Class offers an integrated search environment with an unknown number of hides in a variety of elements. The intent of the Detective Class is to emulate as closely as possible the work of a true detection dog."

Size & Search Area. A detective search is a large search area, between 2000 and 5000 square feet inside (buildings or structures) AND outside. The areas are attached and you can move from inside to outside and back inside again. There will be 4-6 purposeful distractors placed in the search area.

Hides. There can be 5-10 hides in the detective search, and the total is unknown to the competitor. The odors are any or all of the odors used for Master-level (Birch, Anise, Clove & Cypress). Hide placement is quite free and up to the determination of the judge to create a challenging (but ultimately achievable by teams that are prepared for the level). Some tricky hide placement can include elevated, buried in a planter, inaccessible, multiple hides tight together in a small area, and large blank spaces.

Time. The time is determined by the judge by using the demo dog as a reference. The time limits are between 7-15 minutes. There is no 30-second warning! Competitors are allowed to wear a self-timing device to help keep track of their time. I personally love my Fit Bit Versa 2 since it doesn't beep, but has a vibration alarm on the countdown timer. I can set it for any time and it will notify me before my time is up that I should be calling "FINISH!"


These search areas require a dog to be able to search while being focused for a long period of time and work through complex puzzles. There is no guarantee of success and it is not uncommon for a Q rate to be 1 or 2 dogs out of 10+ competitors. Since this is the uppermost competitive level in AKC, the goal is to enjoy the search and have fun!


The Detective title is earned after 10 qualifying runs. A qualifying run is earned when the team has found all the hides and called finish before the time has run out.


Here is an example of a detective search from November 2019.


If you'd like to read more about Detective searches from AKC, check out the following links:

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