Scent Games for Dogs

August 2019

Audience:

Dogs rely on their sense of smell to identify the world. Sometimes the act of sniffing by your dog may be a disservice to you. Imagine how much fun you and your dog will have if you encourage your dog to find stuff you need or a game to keep them occupied.

Getting Started

  • Start with a simple "find it." Hold an enticing dog treat in your hand. Have your dog at your side, facing in the same direction as you. Say, "Find it," and throw a treat past your dog's nose to the ground about 1-2 feet away from them. Let your dog follow the treat, find it, and enjoy it. Repeat 10 times. Once your dog gets the hang of it, start throwing the treat further away.
  • For advanced games, The Center for Shelter Dogs' Nosework Games may be helpful to you.
  • Teach your dog to find your keys. Use a leather or fabric loop keychain. Put a treat in the loop. Put the keychain on the ground 1 foot away from your dog's nose. Ask your dog to "find it." When your dog approaches the keychain and sniffs it, mark the behavior with a "yes" and feed your dog an additional 5-10 small treats right on top of the keychain. Lift the keychain off the floor. Repeat the exercise at the same distance 5-10 times until your dog takes you to the keychain every time. Then increase the distance where you hide the keychain. After a few sessions, make the hide more difficult. Put the keychain behind a chair, under the table, on a chair. After about 10 sessions hide the keychain without a treat in it. When your dog finds the keychain, give them 10-12 treats as they're sniffing the keychain.
  • The same way you taught your dog to find the keychain, you can teach them how to find different toys (e.g. a stuffed Kong® toy), or even a person! For example, ask your dog to find your friend "Doug". Doug will be close by, 1-2 feet away at first, with lots of treats for your dog to eat.

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