Looking for an easy way to keep your dog busy? Do you want to find How To Improve Memory For Nosework that’s both fun and mentally stimulating? Start with some simple nose work games.
They’re easy to play, they can be done indoors, and dogs absolutely love them. And the best part is the only thing you need to get started is some yummy treats.
Here’s How To Improve Memory For Nosework, and three easy nose work games to get you started.
Dogs use their nose for so much and it is a skill that comes very naturally to them. Scent work not only mentally stimulates your dog but also enhances their natural ability to sniff things out, all while having fun!
What You Need for Scent Work For Dogs.
The first step in teaching your dog Scent Work from home is finding the necessary supplies. Almost everything you’ll need can be bought on Amazon or found around your house.
- Birch essential oil
- Cotton swabs, cut in half
- A small glass jar with a lid
- A “scent vessel” to hold the cotton swab. (An empty, cleaned mint tin with holes drilled in the lid will work to get started)
- Disposable gloves
- High-value treats
- A lidded, plastic container with holes drilled in the lid
The Benefits of Nose Work Games 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 10,000 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 an easy way to keep them entertained.
The benefits of teaching your dog nose work include:
- A fun way to give your dog the more mental stimulation
- Gives your dog extra physical stimulation
- Nose work builds your dog’s confidence
- Gives your dog a job to do
- Easy way to bond with your dog
- Nose work is fun & rewarding for dogs
Teaching your dog a few nose work games is a simple way to help keep them busy & entertained.
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 or his favorite toy 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 or toy out of his line of sight.
The idea of this search activity is to gradually build up to new distances and areas. 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.
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 favorite toys. I lucked out with Laika – she’s both play and food-motivated. When it comes to nose work she’ll enthusiastically search for her some regular old kibble – not all dogs will be so willing.
If your dog is pickier than mine chooses his favorite toy or treat to begin with. People often use really high-value treats such as sliced-up meat or one of your dog’s 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.
Scent work games are an easy way to keep your dog entertained, even on rainy days
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 nose work games are a perfect choice. Dogs love having a job to do, something to keep their minds busy.
With nose work, you’re using your dog’s 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 your 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; dogs thrive when they’re given a job. Nose work is an easy example that anyone can do in their own home.
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Which Hand: The Easiest Nose Work Game
One of the first nose work games you can teach your dog is the hand game; it’s the simplest method to get your dog used to use his nose rather than eyes.
With a small piece of food or treat on hand put it inside one of your hands and close your fists while your dog is watching. Present your dog with both hands and ask him “which hand?” If your dog doesn’t have great manners and begins to gnaw or scratch at your hand you’ll probably want to work on some impulse control while you’re at it.
Praise him when he lightly nudges, puts his nose on your hand, or paws at the correct hand – whichever behavior you prefer.
If your dog chooses the wrong hand opens them up to show him where the treat is. Don’t give him the treat if he chooses the wrong hand, but don’t scold him either. Just close your fists and try again. When he gets it right give him a ton of praise and reward him with the treat. Eventually, with simple games like this, your dog will begin to start using his natural talent, his nose, rather than relying on visuals.
How to Play the Which Hand Game:
- Put a treat in one of your hands as your dog is watching
- Close your fists and extend both hands out towards your dog
- Ask your dog “which hand?” and wait for them to choose
- If they choose the correct hand praise them like & open your fist to give them the treat
- If they choose the wrong hand open them up to show them & try again
It’s important not to scold or discourage your dog if they choose the wrong hand. The purpose of this game is to encourage your dog to start using its nose rather than eyes, so it’s important to keep the game fun & rewarding
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 it’s the one my dog enjoys most. And the best part is it’s super easy. All you have to do is pick some treats and hide them around the house.
How to play find it with your dog:
- Pick some smelly treats to have your dog find
- As they’re in the stay position start placing treats around the house
- Place some treats in obvious spots, and some in more challenging locations such as under rugs
- Once you have some treats hidden tell your dog to “find it”
- Encourage them as they run around finding treats
- If they’re missing some you can point or give them clues
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 Game: Hiding Things Around the House
Even though dogs have a sense of smell 2000 times greater than ours they tend to use their eyes a lot. Nose work games will help them focus on smells. To teach your dog to use his nose instead of visuals you’ll want to start with an object that’s really smelly. Popcorn or smelly treats work well here.
Have your dog sit in his stay position. Place the treat or popcorn around the corner or just slightly out of the line of sight and tell your dog to go “find it.” Some dogs might get a little frustrated at first if they’re not able to find the treat immediately.
You can encourage and praise him when he’s close, you can even point it out to him if he’s having trouble. You’re aiming to make it fun and exciting for him, so make sure you praise your dog like crazy when he finds it.
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When I was teaching my dog this step I would make it easier on her by dragging the object on the floor or making ‘scent pads’ so it was easier for her to track with her nose.
As your dog becomes more adept at sniffing things out you can up the challenge. I like to place objects on chairs, under rugs, on the couch, or on window sills – anywhere she’s not going to see right away.
The most important thing to remember when teaching your dog some basic nose work games is to keep it fun. Dogs can get discouraged if they don’t know exactly what you’re expecting them to do; don’t be afraid to help nudge them along in the right direction.
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 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 from a regular game of fetch – it’s mentally stimulating. If you’re looking for more information on the subject check out K9 Nosework.
Here’s a great example of beginning nose work activities:
8 Fun Scent Games Your Dog Will Love
Though newborn puppies are essentially blind at birth, their sense of smell is fully developed and active. It’s a dog’s most powerful sense and the one we humans overlook the most.
While we focus on what things look like, our dogs’ attentions center on a smorgasbord of scents floating through the air: what the neighbors had for dinner; which raccoon walked through the yard the night before; if the retriever across the street just got a bath.
New Animal Scent
Dogs are born trackers of prey, other predators, and competitors. Take advantage of this by placing the scent of a new animal into your dog’s yard and see if she picks up on it. Try this outdoors only as dogs will often urinate over another animal’s scent as a way of reclaiming territory.
To begin, give an old towel or rag to a friend and have him or she rub it all over his or her dog or cat. If possible, have him or she get a drop of urine on the cloth as it contains strong scents. If not, rubbing it will do.
Then, without your dog present, place the cloth out of sight somewhere in the yard, beneath a bush, or behind a tree. Then let your dog out and see what happens! You can try this randomly with the scent of different animals to keep your dog guessing. After trying dog and cat scents, try hamster, parrot, ferret—whatever you can locate.
Food isn’t the only thing dogs are interested in smelling. Unique scents such as essential oils (lavender, anise, and valerian work well) can motivate dogs and will excite their tracking instincts. To start, get a favorite toy (a ball works well) and put a few drops of essential oil onto it. Then, play a quick game of indoor fetch, followed by a reward.
Do so several times a day. The next day, with the dog absent, hide the same toy, then place tiny pieces of paper anointed with the oil onto the floor, leading 20 feet away from the ball, like a trail of bread crumbs.
Then let the dog into the room where the trail begins and say, “Find your ball!” Most dogs will scent out the pieces of paper then eventually connect that smell with the ball. Keep at it and praise when she follows the trail. If need be, get her started by showing her the first scented paper.
When she does find the ball, reward her! Gradually reduce the number of scented papers until she can find the scented ball all by herself. Once mastered in the home, move it out into the yard. Then change the scent and the toy and begin again. You can use chicken fat, cream cheese, peanut butter—anything your dog likes.
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Find the Food
This is a simple way to engage your dog’s scenting prowess. It requires you to do nothing but place treats randomly around the home in the hopes that she will locate them by scent.
Once she finds the first one (often by accident), she will quickly key into the possibility of finding others with her nose. Start by placing one or two treats down in full view, while she is out of the room. Then call her in.
She will eat them happily and look for more. Repeat this process, but begin placing the treats in less obvious places; in a corner, just beneath a sofa or coffee table, or even partially beneath a doggie cushion. Place them while she is outside, or in another part of the home. Then simply let her find them on her own. You will soon see her scenting for them rather than looking for them.
Vary placement and quantity; some days just hide one treat. Once she “gets it,” vary the hidden item. Try hiding a food dispenser toy filled with treats. Hide a feather rubbed with cheese. Hide a frozen cube of meat or broth (on a plate of course!).
Then move it out into the yard and do the same, making it easy at first then progressively harder. Try hiding a chicken egg out there! You can even try this in your car or in a friend’s home.
Hide & Seek
Here’s one that uses you as the treat. While your dog is distracted somewhere in the home, hide in a closet, under a bed, or somewhere she wouldn’t normally expect you to be.
Then just wait. She will inevitably begin searching for you. Once she finds you, praise and reward! If you are in a closet and you hear her sniff
at the door, you’ll know she’s doing what dogs have done for centuries.
Next, take it outdoors to a dog-friendly off-leash wooded area, preferably with no one else around. Have a friend hold your dog, then walk off into the woods and find cover. Your friend should wait 30 seconds, then say “Where’s, (your name)!” and release her.
Your dog should scoot off with her nose to the ground, searching for you. Within a minute she should find you, at which point you should reward her mightily! Increase your distance over time until she can find you no matter how far off.
This game builds upon the “Pick The Hand” game. Get four sturdy, coffee cup-sized containers that she cannot break or easily knock over. Avoid glass or paper; glass could break and paper is too flimsy. With your dog sitting and watching, place a treat underneath one cup then move it back and forth.
Then say, “Find it!” When she sniffs at it, lift the cup and say, “We’ll find it!” as she eats the treat. If she knocks the cup over, that’s fine. Next, add a second cup. Place the treat then move the cups back and forth a bit. Say, “Find it!” and let her sniff each cup.
Wait until she sniffs the right one before praising and lifting the cup. Repeat until she reliably picks the right cup. Then add the third cup, and repeat until she gets it on the first try every time. At that point, you’ll know that she’s using her nose and not random choice.
Pick the Hand
Here’s a simple way to rev up your dog’s nose. First, get some small tasty treats that will fit into your hand. A bit of turkey meat or cheese will work better than kibble because of the former’s stronger aroma. Next, take one into your palm and make a loose, palm-down fist.
Then, with your dog sitting in front of you, offer her that fist, and let her sniff. While doing so, say “Find it!” Once she has sniffed it, open your hand and offer the treat, saying, “We’ll find it!” Repeat this a few times. Then, add your other empty fist. Don’t let her see which hand you place the treat into.
Next, move your closed hands back and forth, then offer up both to her, saying “Find it!” When she sniffs at the treat hand, say, “We’ll find it!” and open your hand to give her the treat.
Repeat this, alternating the hand in which you place the treat. As you continue, wait until you can see her nose really “alert” on the treat hand before opening up.
The idea is to teach her that the location of treatment varies and can be found only by scenting it out. Once she gets it, add a friend’s two fists into the mix, making it doubly hard for her.
Scent Work Training Tips
When setting up, wear gloves, and always handle the cotton swab with tweezers.
The odor should always be “novel,” so don’t contaminate the environment with it. Be sure to dispose of everything that came in contact with the source odor properly (in a sealed plastic bag, preferably outside in a garbage can, away from where you’re training).
Choose a location to set up your odor that’s far away from where you’re training. I set up everything in a bathroom, with the door closed.
Originally printed in AKC Family Dog
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