Do you get tired of just playing fetch or tug all the time? It’s so easy to do and most dogs absolutely love it. To get started you can use some food or treats you’ve already got on hand, and the best part is you don’t even have to leave home.
The Benefits of Basic Nose Work For Dogs
Nose work & scent games offer your dog a fun way to use their natural talents. Even though a dog’s sense of smell is more than 2000 times more powerful than our own they still rely on visuals, especially in familiar environments such as your home. Nose work games can help your dog hone in on their natural talents, and it’s a easy way to keep them entertained.
The benefits of teaching your dog nose work include:
Nose Work Is Simple to Train & Can Benefit All Dog Owners
If you’re looking for an easy way to keep your dog entertained on a rainy day the search command is your new best friend. Dogs love having a job to do, something to keep their minds busy. With the search command you’re using their natural talent in a constructive way to keep them mentally stimulated. The “find it” or “seek” command can be one of the most versatile and fun games you can teach you dog.
Dogs have been bred to work alongside us; teaching them to use their natural talent of smell keeps them happy and entertained. It gives them a feeling of purpose. Dogs thrive when they feel like they have a job to do; and it’s even better when it’s something as simple as teaching them to sniff things out for you.
Remember a tired dog is a well behaved dog. Keeping them mentally and physically fit is your responsibility. Give your dog a purpose by teaching him to sniff things out for you. Nose work is an easy example that anyone can do in their own home.
One of the best things about teaching a dog some basic nose work is that their never too young or old to learn; it’s a great activity for any dog given they have the proper motivation. And of course there’s the bonus of not having to go out and buy any special equipment – it can be done anywhere with something as simple as kibble and paper - just as we will show you!
Choosing the Right Treats or Toys for Nose Work
To entice your dog to search you’ll need something enticing. I often use carrots, snap peas, popcorn or some of her favourite food. Sophie is a super sniffer– she’s both play and food motivated. When it comes to nose work she’ll enthusiastically search for her some regular old biscuits – not all dogs will be so willing. This game can be played with all types of biscuit and some raw foods too!
If your dog is pickier than Sophie choose his favorite toy or treat to begin. People often use really high value treats such as sliced up meat or one of your dogs favorite treats they don’t get very often. I’ve had luck with using treats that smell different in highly distracting environments. That little extra ‘whoa what is that smell’ can help keep your dog focused.
You know your dog best – choosing one of their favorite rewards will help them focus when learning a new skill.
How to Start With Some Basic Nose Work
When starting out with nose work I recommend staying indoors since it’s a lot less distracting. Your dog should have a good stay command and reliable recall in place before you begin.
You’re also going to teach your dog a command such as “find it” so your dog knows when the nose work game has begun. If you already use “find it” for something different, say having your dog go fetch a specific toy, you may want to come up with a different term specific for nose work.
To start the game have your dog stay at a given location. While he’s watching you go place a bit of food at the other end of the room. When you give the cue to release your dog tell him to “find it.” After a few repetitions he’ll know what you’re expecting him to do.
Once your dog seems to know “find it” you can step it up a notch. While your dog is in the stay position put the treat out of his line of sight.
The idea with this search activity is to gradually build up to new distances, areas, scents and obstacles. When first starting out keep the game centered in one or two rooms. If you’re confident that your dog knows the “find it” command it’s time to move onto the next step – hiding things around the house or outside, we will cover this in another instalment of Beyond the Bowl.
How to Play The Find It Game With Your Dog
The find it game is my favorite nose work game for dogs, It’s the most versatile. And the best part is it’s super easy. All you have to do is pick some treats and hide them around the room.
How to play 'Find It' with your dog:
Step 1 - Pick some smelly treats to have your dog find
Step 2 - As they’re in the stay position start placing treats around the room
Step 3 - Place some treats in obvious spots, and some in more challenging locations such as under scraps of paper
Step 4 - Once you have some treats hidden tell your dog to “find it”
Step 5 - Encourage them as they run around finding treats
Step 6 - If they’re missing some you can point or give them clues
Step 7 - Have Fun!
To help dogs out when starting this game you can make scent trails for them to follow. You can drag a piece of kibble or dry treat along the floor, making it easier for your dog to smell their way to it. You might want to skip that step if you’re using treats that don’t lend well to dragging such as cheese.
Nose Work Is Extremely Versatile
Basic nose work games are versatile which makes it one of the first activities I’d recommend teaching your dog. It can be done in any environment, with any number of toys or treats. You don’t need to rush out to the store and buy any fancy equipment – and it can be played pretty much anywhere; indoors or out.
When you’ve worked on the basics for a while your dog will begin to develop the ability to better differentiate between smells. You can advance their skill by focusing on one specific toy or food item and having them focus on finding it amongst other items.
Scent work activity is a lot of fun for dogs – it makes them feel useful and productive. Dogs have been bred to work alongside us; they thrive when they’re given tasks to do.
Meaningful play is important to your dog and it helps build a better bond. It’s different than regular game of fetch – it’s mentally stimulating.
Please see our Facebook page for a great example of beginning nose work activities with the lovely Sophie. Share with us your stories and videos too.