Scent Work 5-3 Intro To ORT/Novice Container Boxes

In order to trial in the NACSW organization, you must pass an odor recognition test. The test uses 12 closed white cardboard boxes roughly 11-1/8″ x 8-3/4″ x 4” (slightly smaller ones are used too – 8x10x3 is a nice size for storing!) and placed in a pattern of one or two rows with each box set a minimum distance of 48” apart. Here’s the link to buy 50 boxes from Amazon

To trial in NW1, you must have passed a Birch ORT. To trial in NW2, you must have passed an Anise ORT. For NW3, you must have passed a Clove ORT. You can test for all 3 odors at the same test.  To do this, rotate the odor you are working with in each session. We will introduce the cardboard boxes the same way as we did with the plastic containers – vented for air flow, but eventually will close up the boxes.

These same white ORT boxes are used for your NW1 container element search and often used/included in NW2 and NW3 container elements. Although it’s not required that you purchase these kind of boxes, you will use them often. It’s also a good idea to have a few since these boxes are closed differently than shipping boxes and contain odor differently.

AKC does not require an ORT test for certifying your dog on odor. You can go right to entering the novice search elements. This setup is equivalent to the AKC Novice Container element search. The Novice clases uses 10 identical closed cardboard boxes. Cardboard boxes used in AKC should be at least 10-inches long by 8-inches wide; they must be no less than 3-inches and no more than 8-inches tall.

Since you have all begun using game boxes already, these initial steps should go very quickly. The difficulty will come when they are completely closed, but we won’t be doing that this week. Odor is contained and not vented but will be “aged” so odor will be strong in and around the box. We will cover transitioning to completely closed/aged cardboard containers in week 6.


  • Tin with qtips inside.
  • White ORT boxes or any cardboard box.
  • One box clearly marked as the hot box (you might want to have at least 2 – a brown and white one). By marked I mean you put the odor letter (for example “B” for birch) on the side of the box so you always know which one is hot. This box will always be a hot box.
  • Treats


  1. Put tin with scented qtips in the marked hot ORT box.
  2. Vent the sides of the box by not closing the box all the way or leave it open.
  3. Start with one box in the search area – dog should know this game and immediately go to box.
  4. Reward quickly at side of vented opening or at top.
  5. Repeat with 2 boxes – open box to give most of your reward right at tin inside box.
  6. Work your way up to 4 or 5 boxes in your first session.
  7. Play the shell game, move them around for another quick search.
  8. Proof and distract occasionally, but do NOT overdo it or don’t do it at all (tapping, luring, distractions in boxes).
  9. Eventually work up to 10-12 boxes, with VENTED hot box, at your own pace.

*Note1: Continue to watch your body language! Are you cueing your dog? Are you walking in as your dog approaches the right box? Instead, walk the other way or walk past the hot box they are on. Have your dog insist they found the right box to earn that reinforcement.

*Note2: At an ORT, 3 qtips are taped under the top in the center top of the box. But for training now, use the tin in the box so you can open it and let them get a good smell while being reinforced. We never want our dogs to get in contact with the qtips and get odor on their fur.

Here’s a video to show how quickly you can introduce the cardboard boxes into your container searches.

Here’s Charlotte and Sage first transitioning to ORT boxes. Also, notice excellent start line set up and very nice leash handling.

And here’s Jaimee and Kingston after a few practice runs, moving up to 4 ORT boxes. Notice the tops are all popped up in order to vent the odor. We will eventually move to having the boxes closed. Again, we have a nice start line set up and very good leash handling.

Alternate doing some interior and box sessions during this week.


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