Buried Hides

The information on this page has been reviewed by the AKC. 

Q. Which substrate should I use in training for novice and excellent buried hides? 
A. Store bought soil or sand, with no added chemicals. 


Do not use soil that has added fertilizer. 
Ingredients listed on the bag that may indicate there is added fertilizer may be  nitrogen, phosphate and potash. 


Q. Can store bought dirt and sand be mixed together and used in the container? 
A. Yes


Q. What type of containers should I use for training for buried hide?
A. I prefer plastic storage bins, like this one. Dirt can fall out of the bottom and sides of some cardboard containers.


Q. How do I place odor into the substrate?
A. First prepare your hide. 
(Learn "how-to" here.) The hide consists of your source (odor) contained within a scent vessel. The entire hide is what will be placed into your substrate, not just a bare swab. 


Scent Vessel Options

Q. What do "hot" and "cold" buried containers mean?
A. Containers that get a hide placed into them are thereafter considered "hot". Some odor will have contaminated the substrate and possibly seeped into the plastic container itself. Even after you remove the hide, the container is still considered "hot".
Hot containers should be stored separate from any cold containers. I put blue tape on my hot containers and lids to help me keep track. A hot container should never be reused as a non-hide container.  If you accidentally spill the substrate in a hot container, the entire area will be contaminated. Try and clean it up the best you can and keep your dog out of the area if possible. 


"Hot" buried hide container on the top shelf, marked with blue tape and stored separate  from the cold containers. 

Q. How do I train my dog to find a buried hide?
A. If possible, take an online class or work with a local instructor. Otherwise first get your dog  familiar with a target odor and finding the odor inside or outside and clearly telling you where it is. To teach the buried element, add a hide to an appropriate container that contains substrate, and teach your dog indicate on the odor that is in the container. As your dog becomes confident, you will then gradually cover the hide with the substrate until it is completely buried. 


Progressively covering a hide with substrate when training for buried hides. 


Q. What are the parameters for the novice and advanced buried search element in AKC Scent Work Competition?






# of Containers




Birch, Anise






1 non-food

2 minutes

3 minutes

2 inches

4 inches



Q. I read screens may be placed over the containers to reduce spills. What type of container covers may I encounter at trials?
A.  From the AKC Scent Work rules:
  • Clubs may choose to utilize a screen over top of the buried containers to prevent disruption of the soil if the dog attempts to dig. The screen may be made of any material but glass.


Or a plastic screen - photo credit Sandra Gould

You may encounter pantyhose 

Screen held on by lid edge

You can use the lid construction as a means for holding on the screen, but only as much lid should remain as is needed to keep the screen secured.

(The substrate pictured in this photo would not be allowed - photo to show lid construction only.)

Photo credit Sharon Heath Dowell

A cover that contained  the majority of the plastic lid would NOT be allowed in competition, as the rules state the containers  must be lidless. Photo credit Kerri Moyer.

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