Dogs rely on their sense of smell to experience the world around them. This is why their walks are more than just an opportunity to go to the bathroom. The “smell stops” your dog makes are the equivalent of your pooch reading the morning paper or checking social media to see what their friends are up to. Because they are so scent-oriented, dogs truly enjoy being engaged with their sniffers — a very foreign concept to their human owners, who have a poorly developed sense of smell. So, here are five fun scent games to play with your dog, whether you’re on a walk, inside on a rainy day, or enjoying the warm weather in your backyard!
1) Which One?
Present both hands to your dog with a toy or treat hidden in one of them. Encourage your dog to touch his nose to the hand, or even a paw, to pick which one. If they are unsuccessful, show him the correct hand that holds the treat, but have the dog try again before giving up the treat. Lots of praise will turn your dog into a “Which One?” scent-game master in no time.
2) Find It!
This game is especially fun on walks, but it can be done at home or in the yard. After your dog has gone to the bathroom, and you both are on the exploring portion of the walk, ask the dog to sit and stay.
Show him a treat or a toy, and set it on the ground a few feet away. Reward him for maintaining the “stay” or “wait” cue, and tell them to “find it.”
Once your dog has a good understanding of the basic rules of “Find It,” you can raise the difficulty level by hiding the treat or toy under leaves or behind a rock. Pass different spots to encourage extra dog brain-power, for him to find the actual spot the treat is.
3) I Lost It!
Similar to “Find It,” the scent game “I Lost It” helps your dog strengthen his fetch capability. You’ll need a scented object. For instance, you can take a handkerchief, and rub a little peanut butter on it or something else that is healthy, pleasant, and familiar (I spray mine with an essential oil my dog knows well). Drop the scented item and continue walking. Stop and begin acting as though you lost something, and ask your dog “Where is it?”
Start to walk back toward the spot you dropped the item, and encourage your dog to find it. If your dog needs help, point to the item, and give lots of praise when he finds it.
Toys or household trinkets are also popular options for this scent game, but be sure to avoid anything that might be toxic or a choking hazard.
4) Scent Trail Surprise
You can play Scent Trail Surprise in your yard or indoors. Without your dog there to see you, lay a trail of tiny pieces of food or treats spread out along your path. Leave a big surprise that they love at the end of the route. To leave a scent trail to the first treat, rub the treat along the floor to get the dog started.
Bring your dog in and encourage him along the way. As they get better, you can up the ante by making the trail longer and spacing out the rewards even farther.
5) Ring Stackers
Toys can be used to teach the brain hand/eye coordination. Ring Stackers, just like the one from your childhood, is one of my favorites. (Except in this case, you will want to avoid plastic and dyes). This paw/eye coordination game turns into a scent game when you get scented ring stackers, so your dog knows when its time to play!
This game takes time for your dog to master, but is a lot of fun when they do. Spread the rings out around the post they will be putting it on. When they pick up a ring, lead them to the post with a treat, and give it to your dog when he puts it in the correct place. Click training can also be helpful for this game, as this game takes a few sessions.
Scent version: To maintain the brain stimulation this game provides, you can add their sense of smell to the game. Apply a different sent to each of the rings, then hide them in different spots, so your dog has to use his sense of smell to find the rings in the correct order.
If your dog is a scent game master, enter them in a “nose competition” to win Nose Work titles and awards! The National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW™) is the “official sanctioning and organizing body for the sport of K9 Nose Work.”
If you’re looking for something that your dog will REALLY want to find, consider natural treats and chews from Springtime. Springtime Treats are simple, honest, old-fashioned treats, with the flavors and chew that satisfy a dog’s cravings. Springtime believes that treats and chews can be tantalizingly delicious AND healthy for our canine companions. All of our treats and chews are made in the USA, with high-quality ingredients, like real duck and beef. They also NEVER have any fillers, preservatives, or dyes, to ensure your dog gets a pure reward.