Are you preparing for searching buried hides in an AKC Scent Work Trial? We thought we would share a few tips to preparing for your buried searches and give you a list of supplies you may want to have to practice at home.

When AKC first announced the concept of buried hides it slightly rocked the scent work community. Students were not sure how their dogs would do searching soil (initially used), sand, and then water hides. What was neat to see is that the dogs had no problem searching these setups. They noticed it was different and quickly found the hides. Brilliant!

What you will need for sand buried setups:

6 Containers

6 Grates (cooling racks)

Play Sand

If you are just starting out you will only need sand hides. We recommend getting 6 setups per element (6 containers with grates for sand and 6 containers with grates for water). This way you do not have to swap them out each time you want to search. Once you have your sand containers you can place your birch odor tin or chapstick tube right on top of the sand. Your dog will likely have no issue sourcing it to understand that the target odor might be in a plastic container with a metal grate and sand. Next, you can put the hide slightly under the sand in the middle of the bin or side. It is very important to reward quickly so they do not try to paw or move the container. We do not want them to start a bad habit. As they get the idea you can slowly wait for more of an alert before paying. Be sure you are ONLY putting odor in one container. After you are done with your searches you can remove the grates (keep the odor one apart from the others) and cover with the container’s lid. This way you can keep everything clean and tidy. We store our odor containers apart from “clean” containers, too.

What you will need for water buried setups:

6 Containers

6 Grates (cooling racks)

6 Suction Cups

Rubber Tubing used for Aquariums


Once you are doing well in sand hides you can start working on water hides. Your dog will likely find it just as easy since he is comfortable searching containers. To set up your hides, cut the rubber tubing into two-inch pieces. You will place a suction cup in the middle of the bin along with the tubing. We want each bin to the look the same even though only one will be your odor hide. In the odor tube, you will carefully place two half q-tips into the tubing. Remember, this should be AKC strength q-tips. So they are much stronger and you will need fewer q-tips. Be sure to mark which bin is your odor one so as not to get mixed up. Once all of your suction cups and tubes are in place you can add water. We fill our bins up to the bottom of the bin label (a couple of inches). Then you will lock on your grates (cooling racks). Again, be sure to pay quickly when you first start. This way your dog is not likely to knock over a water bin to alert you. When you are done with your water hides be sure to carefully pour out the water from your odor bin. Then remove the grates and cover with the lid. It can be more risky with water hides to cross-contaminate since water is a conductor of odor.

Feeding at Source

It’s a good idea to practice paying at the source like you would at a trial. To pay your dog place your hand next to the bin verses on top. This will help reduce crumbs of food being left behind in the container.

Need Help Preparing for Your Next Buried Trial?

We offer group classes, private lessons, and virtual coaching to help our scent work students prepare for upcoming events. If we can help, please let us know.