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K9 Scent Scramble: a new ballgame for Dogs!

The K9 Scent Scramble™ involves dogs diving through or into balls of varying heights to locate and retrieve a specific item, sending balls flying!

Hooch enjoying the K9 Scrambler - Photo Credit: Pinnicle Photography

This new activity and competition sport for dogs is designed to be fun and accessible to all. It certainly makes for exciting viewing but it also delivers some amazing physical and behavioural benefits for all dogs involved. As far as we know, it is the only dog activity of its kind in the world!

The K9 Scent Scramble™
 is the brainchild of renowned dog trainers Marion Brand, Peta Clarke and Trinny Teigan as they wanted to highlight how great the sport of scent detection and K9 Nose Work® in general is for dogs.

"While we have had lots of pet dogs come through our scent detection classes, we wanted to develop a really exciting and fun demo of dogs doing scent work. And dogs in a pit with 20,000 balls hunting for their ball sounds like a lot of fun" said Ms. Brand.

It only takes a few steps to get started so if your dog loves balls and retrieving, this could be their perfect dog sport! The name of this game is to have fun! Dogs do not need prior training in K9 Nose Work® before they can get started with the K9 Scent Scrambler. They will seek a scented ball which carries a special "Scrambler Scat" odour.

It is suitable for dogs of any breed and age as you simply adapt the ball pit (depth of the balls) to each dog's needs and requirements. However as with any activity, your dog's general fitness levels need to be considered. 

Ms. Teigan from Scents Ability explains: "we always start slowly and progressively build the dog's confidence and fitness as we go. We always work to the dog's capabilities and only continue when and if the dog is ready to do soOnce they have reached the advanced levels, most dogs will be able to jump up to three times in a row without resting.
Chewbacca jumping into a ball pit - Source: Pinnicle Photography
Funnily enough, there always seems to be a good excuse why dog owners themselves need to get into the ball pit and end up having a play... I guess we are all big kids at heart! Then there is always that one dog that refuses to come out of the ball pit because he loves it so much!

"But probably the ones we love the most are the reactive dogs we have been able to help - my own dog included", said Ms. Teigan. We have had dogs make their own choice to enter and play in the K9 Scent Scrambler rather than react to other dogs or people watching them. The dogs will scan their environment, notice the dogs and the people around them and then they make the conscious decision to jump into the pit to play in the balls! It's just amazing to watch. 

We have been researching some science behind why the K9 Scent Scrambler has proven so effective for reactive dogs and one reason is Sensory Integration.

Simply put, the sensation of the balls combined with the retrieving process sets a cascade of those "feel good" chemicals, as dopamine is being released into the dog's brain and in turn this helps build confidence.

Moose retrieving a scented ball - Photo Credit: Pinnicle Photography

K9 Scent Scramble Classes and Competitions

The K9 Scent Scramble™ was only launched in June 2016, but there are already plans to hold competitions in the future. Whilst in the beginner levels the dogs will hunt for their favourite toy in the Scrambler, in the higher levels dogs will be required to hunt for a conditioned odour contained within one ball. 

During these timed events, dogs will have the opportunity to dive through balls at various heights dictated by their height at the withers. Once a dog has passed all levels in their height class, they will be eligible to enter the Master Scrambler, which will see even the greatest of Great Danes submerged!

Trinny advises "just practice retrieving with your dog so that they can start learning this special odour or you can look up courses available at 
Lessons include foundation work and confidence building and of course, playing with balls! Remember that any dog can enjoy the K9 Scent Scrambler and it's always about your dog having fun!"

An Open "Sniffer" Day will be held on Sunday 11th September at Pet Resorts Australia in Dural (NSW), with classes starting from October 9th, 2016.
Interest in this new dog activity has been phenomenal and there are plans to expand to other States soon, so keep an eye out for a K9 Scent Scrambler near you!

If you can't wait for a class and would like to get started at home, you can now purchase your own K9 Scent Scrambler scat balls online at

Some background about K9 Nose Work®

K9 Nose Work® is a fun, motivational and portable "search and detect activity", which is specifically designed for companion dogs. It is both a dog sport and a form of therapy.
It is easy to learn as no previous dog sport experience or obedience training is required and it requires minimal equipment.

Why do dogs love K9 Nose Work® so much? 

Simply because they are physiologically predisposed to be good at it. Dogs possess up to 300 million scent receptors in their nose compared to about six million in humans. Smell is the most important sense for dogs, just as important as sight is to humans. 

The key point for us as dog owners to understand is the importance of letting our dogs use their nose to search. It is the searching or seeking that will benefit their general wellbeing and especially their mental health. By adapting the foundation skills and essential elements of professional detection dog training, K9 Nose Work® was specifically designed to be accessible and enjoyable to virtually any dog. 

This includes healthy, high-drive "over the top" dogs as well as dogs that are unable to enjoy other sports due to their physical limitations, lack of focus or obedience, fear or reactivity issues. Marion Brand who runs K9 Nose Time explains "it is absolutely amazing for all dogs — we’ve even taught blind, deaf and quadriplegic dogs.”
In K9 Nose Work® elderly, convalescing and disabled dog can flex their brain muscles while they puzzle out low impact searches at their own pace. It is an excellent exercise for shy, fearful or timid dogs as it builds their confidence, courage, focus and independence. The dogs get so absorbed in the joy of hunting (or seeking) that they forget their worries and fears. This benefit carries over into other areas of their lives.

It is particularly great for reactive dogs because all training and trials are designed to keep dog to dog interactions to an absolute minimum. Only one dog at a time searches whilst the others are safely crated away from the search area, or are resting comfortably in their owners' car. 

The environment is managed to ensure that all dogs feel safe and secure and can focus on what they do best - hunting!

It is a great way to keep your dog healthy and fit through mental stimulation and gentle physical exercise while at the same time not creating over arousal. 

Just 10 minutes of K9 Nose Work® is equal to about 50 minutes of physical exercise so it's great for rainy days.

K9 Nose Work®
is also a timed competition where the dogs are judged on their speed and accuracy in detecting and alerting their handler to specific odours hidden in
four different elements. 
The elements are:

  • Interiors (which can be a room or rooms in a house or building such as an office or school)
  • Exteriors (which can be any outside area including parking lots, parks and school yards)
  • Vehicles (which can include cars, trucks, tractors boats or airplanes). 
  • Containers (which can be luggage, handbags or bins)

ACSW (Australian Canine Scent Work) titles can be won at a single trial if the team passes all four elements BUT, the best part of competing in K9 Nose Work® trials is that you MUST reward your dog when you successfully alert at the odour source. 

What happens if you alert incorrectly? The judge will help you so your dog finds the source and can be rewarded. So even though you have DQ'ed, your dog will still feel on top of the world because he/she has been successful and also positively reinforced.

To learn more or to find classes near you, please visit 

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