Nose Work

A Mental Stimulation Game for Dogs of All Ages

Brennan searches for an odor hidden on a car.

by Kim Schur

Every dog needs and enjoys physical and/or mental stimulation. As our dogs age, and may not be as active as they once were, we need to provide them with mental stimulation.  A great way to do this is Nose Work!  It can be done at most any age and physical ability.

Dogs are taught to search for and find hidden odors.  This can be as simple as feeding them kibble in a snuffle mat or setting up a few small containers and hiding a treat under one of them.  It can also be as advanced as competitive trials with multiple hides.

Nose Work Game One

Try holding a smelly treat in one hand and offering your dog both closed hands.  Open the hand he sniffs or shows interest in.  If it is the one that holds the treat, he is instantly rewarded.  If the hand is empty, open and show him your empty hand and ask him to try again.  It won’t take long for him to catch on and really use his sense of smell!

Gemma practicing searching for the hidden cookie.

Nose Work Game Two

You can also place two or three small boxes or cups on the ground with a treat in one of them.  Tell them to “find it”.  At first, let them watch where you place the treat.  Once they understand the game, you can have them wait in another room, then come out and find it.

Over time you can make it a little more difficult.  Always keep it fun!  You don’t want your dog to become frustrated and not enjoy the game.  Sniff on!!