One of the best ways for dog owners who really want to take their relationship with their dog to the next level is to focus on the dog’s least welcome sense…his incredible nose.
This may be because we don’t see the world the way our dogs do. We don’t understand how important the sense of smell is to our dogs, so we ignore opportunities for interaction and stimulation. The part of a dog’s brain that analyzes odors is believed to be 40 times larger than ours – and if you compare our measly 5 million olfactory receptors to a hunting dog’s 300 million, you’ll see that our noses compare rather pathetic!
The sense of smell is very important to dogs—as important, if not more important, than sight and hearing—and it provides them with more information about their surroundings than we think. By incorporating this knowledge into some of our play and training sessions, we can discover a whole new way to interact with dogs.
Many scent exercises work best outdoors, but some can be done indoors or in the backyard so the whole family can come alive no matter the weather!
hide and seek with puppy
It’s a combination of scent training and problem solving (some dogs are just here to try!). Still, it’s a fun place to start!
- Find someone to hold your dog (or ask your dog to wait, if he’s reliable at this).
- Go away and hide somewhere in the house. Don’t go too far at first until your dog has mastered this fun new game.
- You can make it easier for him by putting some kibble or a treat first. Once you’re in position, your friend can let go of your dog, who can then use his nose to follow clues and figure out where you’re hiding.
- When your dog finds you, you can give him a favorite treat, or if he’s more focused on the toy, you can play with him.
- Afterwards, you can go to another place that doesn’t have fresh smells or treats in the air and try again.
You can play many variations of this game outside in the yard and even further away (while doing this, you should keep your dog on a long leash if he hasn’t already been listening to his recall commands very well). One variation is to take your dog’s favorite toy and use it to really get your dog excited.
- Then, again, you can have someone hold your dog so he can’t see where you’re going.
- After that, you can walk away a bit and put the toy on the ground (don’t go too far, don’t hide it in something too heavy).
- Follow your steps close to your dog (so there is only one scent trail). You can then let him go and encourage him to find the toy.
Initially, if the toy is still hidden within reach, he may not just use his nose to find it.However, when you make him harder and move a little further (always to a new place), you’ll see him follow your scent with his nose – which is always amazing and fun!
looking for snacks
This is another simple game where you hide treats in the room or yard for the pup to sniff out.
- Again, you can start with clearly placed treats.
- However, you can start hiding them under newspaper or plastic pans, in old toilet paper or kitchen paper rolls, under towels, etc…get creative, but don’t hide treats on the couch or chair unless you want your dog Play around with your furniture.For this reason, if you have a dog eager to buy or are a proud homeowner, it’s best to just hide treats on the floor!
- You can also leave him a string of treats for a wonderful treat, like a plush Donkey Kong toy (which can also be hidden in a difficult place, like a handleless bucket). Just always make sure that everything you do is safe – and under your supervision. You can also encourage your dog by turning it into a game you play together.
This game can also be played in the backyard. Use a sniffing pad for this – or, if you’re really lazy, just spread a handful of kibble in the grass and let your dog sniff it.
By the way, it’s amazing how many things you can find around the house that would normally be thrown away but could become dog toys. Some dogs—often retrievers—love to tear open cardboard tubes, wrappers, or light boxes for treats as much as they enjoy sniffing them. So, always keep an eye out for things that can be used to stimulate your dog and make interactive dog toys.
Once you and your dog master these simple olfactory games, it’s a small miracle that you’ll start to develop a greater appreciation for your dog’s nose. For certain breeds and owners, these games can be some of the funnest you play together and offer you a whole new way to interact. And often without leaving the living room!
However, when you go outdoors, remember how incredible a dog’s nose is and the important role it plays in helping him understand his world. So, even if you don’t understand, let him sniff slowly!
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