There are many ways to keep your dog happy, stimulated, and enriched in day-to-day life. One of the most fun is through scenting games. Dogs naturally love to scent. Believe it or not, some dogs use not only their wet noses but also their ears to track a scent. Your dog smells literally thousands of times better than you or I. For comparison, dogs have about 50 smell receptors, while us humans only have one!
Scenting games are a wonderful way to keep your dog's desire to sniff engaged. In this blog, I'm going to go over a fun scenting game you can play with your dog.
The Game: Find it
1. To begin, do one of the following: either have someone hold your dog's leash, tether your dog to something sturdy, or simply put your dog in a sit-stay.
2. Show your dog you have something she likes. Place the item on the ground in front of the dog far enough away that she will have to move to get it. Walk back to the dog and take hold of the leash.
3. Your dog will immediately start to pull toward the item she wants. The moment she stops, say "Find it!" and release the leash. When your dog gets the item, say "yes!", praise your dog, and play with her.
4. Repeat this exercise, each time placing the item a little farther away. This game has multiple benefits as you can probably already tell: increasing the length of the sit-stay, teaching self-control, and eventually, as your distance increases, changing the search from a visual one to a scent-based one.
The trick with this game is to never let your dog get the item if he breaks from the stay. Always ask him to sit and stay a moment before permitting him to get the item. Be sure not to move too fast with this one. If your dog is unable to find the item, move closer to it yourself, but don't give the game away. Allowing your dog to find the item on his own will help build self-confidence. Be sure to let him win this one!
Camille Salter is the founder of All Dogs Toronto and a certified, knowledge-assessed dog trainer (CPDT-KA). She is the author of two books on dog behavior: Pandemic Puppy, and Decoding the Dog Park.