Easy Scent Games for Dogs

Guest Blogger: Suzanne Denk, Animal Enrichment Specialist

Dogs are great at detecting smells!  They can find lost people, locate land mines, diagnose cancer, admire your new perfume, and find suspicious luggage content.  Those superior sniffing noses should have some fun! 

Scent games allow a dog to use instinctive skills.  Using the nose lets the dog think and requires the dog to concentrate.  Scent games are fun for a dog but do not over stimulate him and that can be essential when it is too cold to play outside!  A few minutes of a calming scent game can help a dog relax.  Each game only takes a few minutes and can be played in your living room.   

Bottles in a Box: Drop treats into a large box filled with empty water bottles.  The dog must search in the box to recover the treats.  Because the bottles move and make noise, the game can help build confidence.  For a fearful dog, try crumbled newspaper in the box instead of bottles.  Leave some treats visible on the top of the newspapers to encourage the dog to search.  

Seek and Find: Randomly toss treats or kibble into grass, snow, leaves, around a room or on a blanket on the dog’s bed and let the dog sniff and search.  The challenge is greater when the treats are not easily visible requiring him to use his nose. 

Scent Trail: Lay out a trail of tiny treats, Hansel and Gretel style.  This game may be played inside or outside and in any size space.  Some treats may be placed on a bench, around a tree, up on a branch, on the bumper of your car, up the stairs, around the perimeter of a room, or under a couch cushion.  Use your imagination.  A jackpot (a small pile of treats) should be placed at the end of the trail.   

Twisted Towel Treat Puzzle: Place treats on a towel, roll the towel up, and twist.  Let the dog work the towel open to find the food.  Too easy?  Place the treats in a Kong and roll up the Kong in the towel. 

Snack Time Tubes: Gather 6-12 Pringles potato chip tubes.  Drop treats into one tube.  Pile the tubes together.  The dog must sniff to locate the tube with the treats.  The long tube provides a little more challenge to the dog in removing the treat and provides some salty potato chip flavor!  

Cereal boxes and egg cartons: Dogs enjoy tearing up cereal boxes and egg cartons to find hidden treats. 

After a game that requires thinking and sniffing, you and your dog can snuggle up and relax on a cold winter day!

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