Scent Articles Classroom

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Over the next 4 weeks, I am going to teach you my secrets, drills, and training methods to teach, improve, and proof your Scent Articles.



IntroductionHow to TrainGamesSequencingTypical ProblemsProofing
Description of Exercise/Skill:  Articles can be made up of three types of materials, metal, wood, and/or leather.  Each set of articles consists of five metal, five wood, or five leather. Each set of articles must be legibly numbered 1 – 5, and the articles in each set must be identical.  The handler must use any two of the three types of articles, metal, leather or wood.  Prior to entering the ring, the handler will give the articles to the ring stewards, who will keep them on the Judge’s table.  When it is time for the Article Exercise, on judge’s command, the handler will pick up an article to scent, walk back next to their dog and into heel position, scent the article with his/her hands, while their dog stays in heel position.  The Handler will then give the scented article to the judge who will place the scented article some place in the article pile.  The handler and their dog will pivot and sit or pivot and go directly to the article pile.  The dog will select the correct article by scent and promptly retrieve and return the correct article to his handler and front.  This sequence happens twice, once with leather, metal, or wood and the other repetition with the remaining article type.

Scent Article Forum – Place to ask questions and post YouTube videos!  This is a PRIVATE group only for Scent Article participants.

What you will need: 

  • Articles, metal, leather, wood.
  • They can have one, two, or three bars.
  • Articles can be purchased or hand made.
  • Squeeze cheese or soft sticky treats.
  • Toys for tug or treats for rewards.
While doing this exercise, I look for my dog to maintain focus and stay in an “active” state while waiting to start the exercise.  My dog is to maintain attention while I am scenting the article and also while doing the pivot.  I prefer to use a turn and sit and do not do a direct send EXCEPT for a dog that need motivation and speed.  Once sent, my dog should go immediately to the pile of articles and work continuously until he finds the correct one.  When located, my dog should immediately take the article without mouthing or dropping it, and return directly to front holding the article. On command, my dog should out the artcile, and return to heel in a prompt attentive manner.  

PDF Files to help your training!

Scent Articles Training Log

Scent Articles Points to Remember

Questions? Ask DebbyQ

It is a good idea to introduce Articles at the same time as teaching the retrieve.  While teaching articles, keep criteria clear and maintain energy and focus by adding games.

Skills needed for great Scent Articles: 

  • Maintain focus while in sitting in heel position.
  • Focus while you get and scent an article.
  • Pivot in heel position then sit or go directly to the pile of articles.
  • Find the correct article and retrieve the correct article.
  • Front with something in his mouth.
  • Finish to heel position.

Care of Articles

  • Metal, wood, and leather articles can be wiped clean with a damp dishtowel.
  • When putting the articles back in the bag to be stored,
      • Touch each article with your hand.
      • This keeps articles equally scented.
  • Keep articles in a bag that allows ventilation.
  • Clean the article you use cheese on after each training session.
  • Clean the entire set, once or twice a week.
When teaching articles, I use a small dab of sticky food, such as squeeze cheese, on the scented article.  This method has proven very effective for the majority of dog.
Introducing the Scent Articles 
  • Have your dog in a settle or a relaxed position.
  • Get one article, I prefer to start with metal, and lightly scent then squeeze a small dab of cheese on the article.
  • Place the cheesed article on the ground cheese side up and encourage your dog to pick it up and give to you.
  • No front is used.
  • IMPORTANT: make it urgent for your dog to pick up and deliver article to you.
  • Jackpot when your dog gives the article to you.

Problem Solving

  • Do not get after them if they pick up the wrong article.
  • Keep it fun for your dog to pick up and deliver to you.

D. Do not get after them if they pick up the wrong article
1. Do not say “NO” if they pick up a wrong article
2. Just help them find the correct one until they comprehend the exercise
3. When they understand the exercise, correct the mistake, then “good dog.”


• Initially put lots of cheese on the article and have the cheese facing up
• Then just a dob of cheese with the cheese facing up
• Then turn the article so that the cheese is not visible to the dog (i.e., upside down)

how much to scent

• Work turns separately using a toy or tossing a cookie
• When you start putting all of the pieces together, help the dog through everything

To teach the flying send, use a slip lead to keep the dog close on the turn, then toss a cookie or a toy after the turn and let the leash slip out

Teaching to FIND

1. First step – find it
a. Put out the entire pile of metal and leather articles
1. Mix leather and metal articles into about a 3 ft circle, straight line,
or any other configuration
2. Keep one article out to mark with my scent
(in the beginning use a metal article)
b. Mark the article with my scent by rubbing the center bar
1. Place article in palm of hand with center bar against palm
2. Close hand around bar
3. Turn article A FEW TIMES times in closed hand
c. Put a little canned cheese on to the center of bar of the article
d. Place the scented article in front (nearest to me)
1) Place article in this position for only one or two repetitions
the very first time the dog is introduced to articles
3) Make sure that the cheese side is up
e. Send the dog by asking them to find it
1) Allow the dog to work the pile, looking for the article
2) Once they have found the article
put urgency in my voice with words like “hurry, get it, come”
3) Make a game of it
4) Do not add fronts when dog returns
5) Give lots of praise and cheese reward when dog returns
f. The minute they get the article
1) Make it urgent that the dog returns to me

4) Give lots of verbal praise and feed back
g. The reward is the cheese and verbal praise and LOTS of rewards when delivering to you

1) If the dog picks up the article and brings it back
a) do not ask for a front
b) back up until they come to me
2) Ask for “out” and then let them lick the cheese off of the article
j. Watch your body posture during the “find”
1) Do not lean over towards dog to help them “find it”
2) As dog comes back, take a couple of steps backward

Second step – “find it”
a. After 1 or 2 repetitions, start placing the marked scented article randomly
in the pile

cheese on the bottom
a. When putting out the scented article, turn it so the cheese is
on the bottom
b. Place the scented article anywhere within the pile
c. Continue practicing “finding” the article
d. By this point, they, should be retrieving the article
e. Do not use leather until the amount of cheese is very small
f. May need to use ½ pile size when first adding distractions or making
the find more difficult
b. Put dog on sit or rev before sending
c. Place the marked scented article in the pile
1) as I put the article down, remind them to “sit”
a) putting the article down is similar to the crouch position so
b) the dog may leave thinking that this is a crouch release
2) Use my body to “hide” where I put the article
d. Send the dog by asking them to “find it”
1) Rev them up to “find” the article
2) Remember to make it a game
e. Allow the dog to search the pile
1) Give them time to find the article on their own without any verbal help
2) If I constantly say “find it, find it,” etc. while searching the dog may
pick up the wrong article let the dog think about working
3) Give them a few chances to work out any problem before simplifying
4) Do not say “no” when they pick up the wrong article
5) If they pick out the wrong article simply point out correct one

f. Once they find the correct article
1) Put urgency back into my voice
2) Ask them to “hurry, hurry,” and “come”
3) Do not add finishes or finishes
4) Reward is the cheese, praise, and play
h. To encourage the dog to go out fast add games
1) gently pinch or grab their tail
2) tap their rear with my foot
3) “goose” them

i. Start adding distance from dog to pile very soon in training
i. When doing well, start light proofing and going to new locations


3. Third step – cheese reduction
a As they get better at finding the article,
1) Scent the article more by turning it twice in my hand scenting of
article should be consistent through out training and teaching
2) Slowly reduce amount of cheese on article
b. Continue keeping the cheese up so they will find the article
c. At this point the dog should understand the “find” concept
d. Continue encouragement and urgency once they pick up the article e. Continue proofing and new locations increasing distractions


Games – Getting the most out of Training

Sit in heel focus games.

  • Step away quickly. While your dog is sitting in heel position, step away quickly and expect your dog to keep up with you. This helps teach your dog to stay in an “active” state when stationary. Over many training session, add more duration before stepping away. Look for that active state. If you see your dog relax, step away and taunt your dog that he didn’t keep up. When moving You can step forward, backward and off to the right.
  • Release and play after another person has taken an article. Practice keeping your dog active once a person has taken your article. Do a surprise game, or a push and play, once the person has come to get the article. Add duration when your dog learns the game.

Games while doing Articles

  • Tap your dog’s rear or tail when your dog is leaving to go to the article pile. Want to speed up your dog going to the pile? After the pivot, and as you release your dog, tweak his rear or tail. Stay still and start to tweak it after your dog is heading out and looking towards pile.
  • Run away. Move in a large circle around the pile while your dog is working the pile. Then run away when dog finds correct one. When your dog catches you, play a game of tug or the “KrazyKookie” Game. No worries if your dog drops the article, just remind him “hey what did you forget, go get that article” and play!
  • Play tug or retrieve. Once your dog brings back the correct article, place your hands on it, give your play words, i.e. “get it”, and break into a game of tug like you would with a toy. OR take the article from him and break into a game of tug or throw and retrieve the article like you would with a toy. Anytime I go from work to play I use my play cue “get it”.

Video Notes: We are training Articles in the first clip. We work on attention on the line-up and keep training fun by running away on the first return, tapping our dog’s butt on the second send and then greeting him with a toy for tug. In the second clip, we challenge our dog with a different layout so our dog keeps guessing. On the first repetition, our dog gives us poor attention on the pivot. We push him out of the way with our leg, letting him know that wasn’t a good try. We then set up to repeat the pivot and play a game to make sure he maintains attention. Quite praise for job well done and send to pile. On the return, our dog fronts and we break into a game of tug. On the next repetition, we play some pivot games, and then send our dog to the pile. At marker 2.09, during our pivot, our dog drops his head. Again we push him out of the way letting him know the effort was incorrect. We play a game during the turn to remind our dog to keep his head up. Once the pivot was correct, we sent to the pile. During this session, we test and throw different skills and games to keep our dog in an “active” state and training fun.

E. Pivots
1. Work on pivots separately
2. Do not add pivots until the dog is confident and understands exercise
with a small amount of proofing

Once my dog understands articles, I will start to Sequence articles. However, before sequencing or adding new skills, my dog should be correct the majority of time, had some light proofing, and trained in many new locations.

When you start putting all of the pieces together, help your dog through each step of the sequencing.  To do this, I use my foundations to remind my dog what and how to do the skill properly.  Example: if I am adding a pivot and then will send my dog to the article pile, I will have a slip lead on my dog.  When we pivot, I expect the pivot to meet my criteria. Once we are facing the pile, and the pivot is perfect, I will send my dog and allow the slip lead to come off my dog. When my dog finds the correct article and returns to me, I release and play with my dog. I do not ask my dog for a front at this time.

E. Pivots
1. Work on pivots separately
2. Do not add pivots until the dog is confident and understands exercise
with a small amount of proofing


  • Line-Up, pivot, and release and play.
  • Face the article pile, rev your dog, and send to pile. No pivot or front.
  • Have your dog go through your legs and to the pile. No front.
  • Turn, reward pivot, and send. No front.
  • Run away after he finds the correct article and is coming back to you.

To teach the flying send, use a slip lead to keep your dog close on the turn, then toss a cookie or a toy after the turn, directly in front of you, and let the leash slip out as you dog leaves to get the treat. Use this technique only for dogs that need motivation and speed.

Video Notes: In this video, we are showing how we sequence articles. We break up and make going to the article pile “fun” and test to make sure our dog is paying attention while the scent articles are scented. When we do not feel our criteria is being meet on the pivot, we about or push our dog out of the way. We then repeat the pivot again and will reward for success or abort again. Sometimes we add a pivot to the sequence, while other times we have or dog spin or go through our legs to go to the article pile.

1. Pivots or fronts or finishes should be worked on separately
2. Pivots or fronts or finishes are only occasionally used during the exercise
3. Dog should sit until sent after pivot make dog think and add games
4. Add games before sending
5. Do not correct anticipations
a. Just blow it off and play for a while
b. Then remind to sit for next repetition
6. Keep a positive body posture and tone in voice
7. If start having problems, simplify the exercise
a. Break up the exercises into its parts
b. Use ½ the pile
8. Proof entire exercise piece by piece
9. Practice entire exercise at new locations using random surprise releases
during any part of the exercise
E. Corrections
1. Anytime the dog stops working the pile it is a “failed retrieve” correction depends on the skill level of the dog
2. The consequence depends on the level of the dog and the amount or
difficulty of proofing
a. Take the dog back to the pile
b. Put dog over the article and say “find it, good dog” as you direct him to
the correct article
c. Hold collar with left hand and muzzle with right hand
1) Take dog to pile
2) Hold dog’s nose over correct article
3) Tell them “that’s your find it” or something similar
d. Use a forced retrieve when needed for advanced dogs or if effort
is not given


Articles – Typical problems/solutions

Articles are one of the easiest skills to go down the “toilet” really fast. I find definite and clear criteria and rules help my dog understand what and how I expect the skills to be performed. As a result, confidence is built in my dog for doing articles correctly. If you start applying rules, start with 1/2 of the pile. This will simplify the scenario for your dog and help him to learn your rules quickly.

My article rules in this order are, My dog must:

  1. Run to pile and continually search.
  2. Bring back something.
  3. Find correct article.

Question: What causes “walk-ins” on articles?
• Dog is not confident and is worried – handler yells NO when the dog is wrong. No matter what, let the dog bring the article back to you!
• Handler should mix up standing still with moving.  Your dog should be committed to come to you before moving

Your dog walks or stops half way back to you when doing articles.

I find that the main reason for “walk-ins” on articles is that the dog is not confident, is worried, and does not understand his rules.

What creates the worry? Often times, I see a handler say “NO” when their dog is bringing back the wrong article. No matter what, let your dog bring the article back to you! Smile and NEVER look disappointed or confused. If your dog brings something back, rejoice that your dog had the confidence to choose something and the commitment to bring it to you.

When training, mix up how you stand with moving or walking around. Your dog should be committed to come to you whether you are moving or standing still. Also, be aware of when you praise your dog. Video is great for this as it shows you when you are praising. Lastly, always wait until your dog commits to coming back to you before you praise your dog.

You do not know how to correct your dog when he is incorrect. Sometimes he stands over the pile and other times he goes out and comes back with nothing.

First, it is important to have rules for the articles. The rules help tell my dog what and how I want him to do articles in the “order of importance”.

My dog must:

  1. Run to pile and continually search.
  2. Bring back something.
  3. Find correct article.

I deal with numbers in the order shown.

  • If my dog stops or leaves the pile (rule 1), I mark the incorrect behavior by saying something like “oops, nope”, etc. Then, I calmly get my dog and walk to the pile with my dog by taking his collar and muzzle. Once at the pile, I place his nose just above correct article for a few seconds as I say “find.” Once my dog has taken the article, I say “come” with a quick tug on the collar. No need to go all the way back to where I started.
  • If my dog picks up and drops an article or stops, I immediately mark the incorrect behavior, stop the repetition, and do the same consequence as above. (rule 2)
  • If my dog picks up wrong article, I let him come all the way back to me. I am happy that he brought back something. I thank him for the article, and then take my dog’s collar and muzzle as in above. (rule 3)

Your dog grabs the article and doesn’t think about what he is doing.

In many cases, applied pressure for our dog to get and article and get back to us creates a grabbing problem. When I start to teach retrieves, I will introduce articles at the same time. This will help my dog understand if there is one object that I throw or mark, just go out and grab it. If there are lots of things together, you must FIND the correct one.

If grabbing is an issue and it is too late to do the above, I would go back to your foundation for articles. Place four (4) articles out and start there. Do not add more until your dog is confident and is no longer grabbing an article. Train in many new locations and situations with a small pile.

Different article layouts can also help. Try putting your articles in a straight line and further apart. Often this will take the hurry up pressure off your dog.

Your pivots are great when done separately, but fall apart when adding to articles.

Practice pivots and turns separately using a toy or tossing a cookie. Maintain your dog’s focus and attention the entire time until you give a command or signal. Reward your dog in heel position for effort. Once you have done this, video tape and check your consistency. Then add the pivot to article sequencing.

Every time you pivot, make sure that the pivot meets your criteria AND feed your dog a treat when it does. Only send your dog to the pile IF the pivot is perfect. If the pivot is not perfect, just work on the pivot and do not send your dog for an article.


• Add distractions such as toys, if the dog goes to the toy, say NO or WRONG


Articles – Proofing – the last Steps to Success

Once you have this sequenced your Articles, start to proof them. Always remember, you do not have to do the entire exercise in order to proof the skills. You can proof the pivot or the send to the pile or the search or the return or the front. Keep the proofing game fun and rewarding and build on success!

  • Instead of executing a pivot in your normal manner, start your turn very slowly. Or before completing the pivot, abruptly stop and stand still.
  • Place your articles out as your dog watches you. Return to him and execute a pivot. Once the pivot is complete, clear your throat or say a word other than your send command.
  • Will your dog continue to search for the correct article if he thinks you are leaving? Test him by slowly backing away while he is looking for the article. Alter this idea by backing away and opening a door.
  • Vary the amount of scent you put on your articles during training. Occasionally hold your articles a very short time, putting very little scent on them. Or scent your articles for a longer time, imparting much more scent to the articles than you normally would.
  • At any time after your dog leaves you to look for the article, whistle, clap, march in place, cough, or squeak toys. Will he continue going to the pile or remember to look for the article during this noisy distraction?
  • Place a small squeak toy on the floor where you will be standing to practice this exercise. Place your articles on the floor as you normally do. Stand with your foot over the squeak toy. Lower your foot to squeak the toy as your dog leaves to go to the article pile or at any time during the exercise.

Video Notes: In this clip, Kathy and Dance are proofing articles with a distractor sitting in the pile. Kathy gives a reward marker when Dance is correct in picking and bringing the correct article. Also, Kathy releases and plays games to reward Dance for a GREAT job. Curtis and Jasper are working with a toy and his article bag out near the article pile. First, Curtis tests Jasper’s pivots by doing two in a row before turning to send Jasper to the article pile. Jasper takes a glimpse at the toy but makes the correct decision. Lastly, Gretchen and 2-e are working on articles with a person sitting in the pile. On the first pivot, Gretchen was not happy with 2-e’s turn so she pushed him out of heel and tried the pivot again. This is GREAT training! Never continue a sequence of skills if the first skill was less than criteria or fixed in any way. Always build on successful skills. :>)

f. Continue proofing increasing distractions and working at new locations 1) Add distractions to around the pile
a) Toys
b) Articles from around the house
c) Leashes, balls, etc.
C. Only scent stage
1. Keep reducing the cheese at this stage
2. Articles should be thoroughly proofed
a. Start out with easy proofing and work up to more difficult ones
b. Working in new locations is a type of proofing
c. Keep small amount of cheese on the article with the cheese downward
d. Easy proofing ideas
1) Pull out a toy from my pocket while dog is working pile
2) Walk dog to other side of pile during the first stages
3) Work more on drive and building “want to” then send them
4) New locations
e. More difficult proofing ideas
1) Drop a toy
2) Putting a treat/toy next to the pile
3) Have someone bounce a ball
4) Have someone walk by
5) Put a glove next to the pile
6) Put the pile on two different surfaces or on two different levels
f. Remember when there are problems, reduce the distractions and simplify
g. Be careful because some dogs will choose not to try or give effort when
they have to make decisions