A dog’s nose is 1000 to 10,000 times more powerful than a human’s, though their eyesight is actually quite poor. These scent-based games are a fun way to challenge your dog’s sense of smell while teaching them new, useful skills. They’re also easy enough for new dog owners, and even your kids can participate. You’ll love seeing your dog sniffing away, putting that wonderful nose to good use.
1. Find the treat!
The most simple way to engage your dog’s sense of smell is to hide a treat, then allow them to find it. You can use a release command like “go find it!” before allowing them to search. At first, you can make it easy by allowing them to watch you hide the treat, then you can up the ante by having them stay in another room, and trying increasingly difficult hiding spots. Don’t increase the challenge too quickly, though, because you don’t want your dog to get frustrated and give up. Use a high-odour treat like liver bites to keep your dog engaged.
2. Pick a Hand
This game is also great for teaching impulse control. Place a treat in one of your hands, then put your hands behind your back and switch the treat into your other hand. Then hold out your fists and let your dog sniff. Wait for them to nose or paw at one of your hands, and then open your hand to reveal the treat (or no treat!) As your dog gets good at this, you can wait for them to sit calmly before opening your hand.
3. Cups Game
Your dog can use their eyes and ears to find treats in the Cup game. Place three identical cups upside down on a flat surface, and put a treat under one of them. Switch the cups around while your dog watches. Then, challenge your dog to figure out which cup contains the treat. At first, you can allow your dog to knock over the cups until they find the treat. To increase the challenge, wait for them to nose one of the cups, then pick up their chosen cup to allow them to take the treat, or to see if they chose the wrong cup. Then, reshuffle the cups.
4. Hide And Seek
Hide and seek is a fun game that teaches your dog a few important lessons. By having your dog stay without being restrained while you hide, you’ll teach a strong stay. They’ll learn to use their nose to find you. They’ll also develop a stronger recall, and will be more likely to come when called, even if they can’t see you. Of course, you will do all of the hiding while your dog seeks. You can teach this with treats, though your dog will probably also enjoy the thrill of finding you. Offering your treats only some of the time can make the game more exciting for them.
5. Find The Scent: Beginner Nosework
You can take your dog to real nosework classes, or just practice at home. Use three identical boxes or jars, and insert a cotton ball with a few drops of an essential oil to just one of them. Eucalyptus oil is often used for nosework. You can also use a little bit of cinnamon mixed with water, or another distinct, dog-friendly spice or herb. Click and reward your dog for going near the correct jar. As your dog starts to see out the scent, you can place the jars further and further apart, and add different scents to the other jars to make the game more challenging. You can even place a few drops of the scent on a keychain and attach it to your keys so your dog can find them for you. You’ll never be late for work again!