Activities For Dogs With Best Sense Of Smell

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Introduction

Frankly speaking, more owners ignore or grow tired of their dog's excellent nose than put it to good use, likely because of their penchant for sniffing (and rolling in) unpleasant smells, sniffing guests in socially "inappropriate" places, or simply seeking out foods they can break into when you're not looking. But at the end of the day, they can't help themselves! They were born with exceptionally good senses of smell and because of it, many dogs are used to following their noses both into and out of trouble because it not only makes their world more clear and interesting, but often leads them to something desirable, whether you want them to have it or not. So if you have a dog with a great nose, embrace it! After all, it's much easier to put to work than it is to fight, and doing so can provide them entertainment, purpose, and exercise and provide you some benefits in the process. So without further ado, here are some ideas for activities you can sniff out with your canine companion.

Mushroom Hunting

Popular
0 Votes
Sunny Day
Free
Normal
15 - 120 Minutes
Items needed
Treats
Mushrooms
Leash
Activity description
While many dogs use their noses to get into trouble, they can just as easily be used to do something productive, and there are few activities more mutually rewarding than sniffing out a potential part of your dinner or a way to make some extra cash. Mushroom hunting can be a great way to spend time together, give your dog purpose, and get both of you some exercise. It does, of course have drawbacks, as many mushrooms can be potentially toxic to dogs and/or humans, so make dead sure you know what you're looking for before diving in. Once you're well-versed on what you're looking for, find mushrooms that grow in your local area that you can begin to seek out. Once you do, you're already half way to a delicious meal or a nice side hustle. Mushroom hunting is best reserved for sunny, semi-humid days, as that's when smells travel best, but can be done on overcast days as well. It's free as long as you have a leash and treats, and can take up as much or as little time as you'd like.
Step
1
Isolated training
To get your dog off on the right paw, you'll need to simply the process and reduce any potential distractions that may prevent them from making the right associations. Start by selecting one mushroom you'd like them to start hunting for (online searches often produce helpful maps and seasonal growth charts). Then, obtain one! Either go seek one out yourself or to simply things further, just hit up your local grocery store or farmers market and grab a few to bring home. Bring your pup into a room or environment with few distractions to their senses and begin their introduction. Start by setting the mushroom on the floor in front of them and allowing them to smell it. If they simply smell it and look back at you, give them a treat. If they try to eat it, give them a firm "No!", push them away, wait a bit, and try again. Most dogs don't take long to figure out that they are being rewarded for sniffing it, not eating it. Repeat the process until they get the picture.
Step
2
The easy find
With your dog distracted or in another room, place a few mushrooms in plain view around the house or in one single room. Invite them in, give them a smell of one of the unplaced mushrooms, then use a definitive command such as "go find mushrooms" and let them sniff around. Once they find one, give them praise and/or rewards, pick the mushroom up, give them the command again and let them move on until they've found all the mushrooms, repeating the same steps in the process. Once they've got it down in the house where distractions are minimized, go through the same steps outside where there are more sights, smells, and sounds to stimulate them. Once they succeed here, you're ready for your first field test.
Step
3
Field test
Once your clever companion has aced the ease of yard-hunting, take them out into a setting where you would normally hunt for mushrooms yourself. Depending on the dog or area, they may need to remain leashed (although long leashes are encouraged as they'll hasten the process and your dog's ability to stretch further out). Well-behaved dogs can be unleashed to search out mushroom patches on their own but keep a close eye in case they get distracted or decide they want to try their find. Continue the rewarding process until they become a pro. Once they nail down the first field test, you've got yourself a mushroom hunter!
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Search and Rescue Training

Popular
0 Votes
Any Day
Expensive
Hard
2 - 4 Hours
Items needed
Internet-accessible device
Treats
Leash
Activity description
We're not just here to tell you about the cheap, easy ways to get your strong-nosed dog into some scent-appropriate activities, as many can prove far more beneficial if both owners and dogs have the capacity for them. Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs are truly indispensable to finding both animals and people that are in distress, although it truly takes a high-caliber person and a high-caliber dog to reach certification and success in the field. Rest assured, this is not an easy process. It takes hundreds if not thousands of hours of training and experience as well as a significant investment in gear, materials, and travel expenses to bring it all to fruition, but once you do, you and your dog could be one of the most valuable life-saving duos around.
Step
1
Research
As noted above, getting you and your dog SAR trained and certified is not a quick or simple process. To get the ball rolling, you should first assess your dog's capabilities. Their strong nose is only the beginning, as both you and they need to be physically fit to traverse sometimes harsh terrain and weather and they also need to be responsive when it comes to training. Once you've determined that you meet all of these criteria and that you're still interested, start with an online search to see where the closest SAR training facilities are and what they recommend as additional criteria for both you and your pet. Once that's squared away, contact an appropriate facility and see what kind of availability they have for training. You may need to take time off work or away from family so preface and plan accordingly.
Step
2
Training and certification
Once you've scheduled the start of your training, pack your bags and hit the road! We're not properly qualified to go through all the necessary steps to get your dog into and through training, so you'll need to follow the organization's members and guidelines to get through this next step. Be aware, it may take anywhere from six months to two years depending on the availability and success during training. You will likely be highly-involved as both a handler and a rescuer yourself, which means you'll need to go through life support training as well, which may or may not be included within the dog's training program.
Step
3
Be a hero
Once you and your dog have been registered, trained, and certified, it's time to be on-call. Calls can come in day or night and year-round, so you'll need to be prepared to drop everything at a moment's notice to get to the required location. But once you do get the call, it's time to put both you and your pooch to the test. With any luck, you'll help to track down and possibly save a life, which, outside of significantly improving your dog's obedience, health, and relationship with you, may be the greatest benefit of all since it will resonate far beyond just you two.
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Hide and Treat

Popular
0 Votes
Any Day
Free
Easy
5 - 30 Minutes
Items needed
Treats
Activity description
Out of nearly all activities you can do with your nostril-driven dog, playing Hide and Treat is likely the easiest and most accessible. It takes only a small bag of treats, a place to play and a dog that loves treats - and most owners already have most of that down! It can be played for as long or short as you'd like (making sure not to over-treat them for the sake of health), can be played in numerous environments inside and out, and will likely be equally rewarding to both of you. Our biggest tips? Make sure you play in areas with minimal breakable objects (some dogs get pretty excited about this game and can grow a bit careless in their search) and if their treats aren't low-calorie, break them up so you can play longer without overfeeding them.
Step
1
Preparation
Once you've selected a bag of treats, examine the size and determine whether or not it's necessary to break them up (depends on dog size, calorie count and overall treat size). This first step is important, as your dog may lose interest, get distracted or over interested if you do this step in front of them, thus compromising the game. Then find a room that has objects appropriate to their size. Smaller dogs can usually only reach the floor unless they're allowed on the furniture and able to get there alone, and even then, you should be mindful of whether or not you want to associate certain spots with food, as they may misbehave when you're gone trying to search for more. Larger dogs can usually reach more places, but like mentioned above, we recommend not placing them on tabletops or other eating surfaces if you plan to keep them behaving well when other food is around.
Step
2
Distract and place
Once you've figured out what room or area to use, lead your dog into another space where they can't see where you're placing treats (after all, they're not using their noses if they see where you place their 'hidden' treasure!). You can either close a door so they can't see, or give them another larger treat or chewy to munch on while you go about your business. Once they're safely distracted, place the treats around the room, making sure to have a range of difficulty so they don't just waltz in and gobble up the game in only a few short minutes. Change up the height and visibility to increase the difficulty.
Step
3
Let 'em go!
Once you have everything placed, let them into the room to start the hunt. Chances are, they'll know what's going on by the time they smell the treats in the room, but if need be, give them a consistent command like "find the treats" so they know what to do or give them a smell and a taste of one so they realize that there are more to be found. Once they've found them all, give them another command such as "all gone!" while holding your hands up so they know the game is over, as well as praising them for doing a good job. Feel free to repeat the game as many times as you feel comfortable with and don't hesitate to introduce a timer or change up rooms to keep things interesting.
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More Fun Ideas...

Which Hand?

Like the cup game, Which Hand? is another quick and easy game you can play to get your dog introduced to scent-based games. All you have to do is hide a treat in one hand and hold both out for them to sniff and choose. The best part is, once you play a few times, both hands will have scents in them, which will naturally increase the overall difficulty.

Cup Game

When your dog can't see (or isn't looking) place three non-transparent cups on the floor upside-down with a treat under only one of them. Invite them to come over and see if they can identify which cup is hiding the treat. When they find it, lift it up and let them enjoy!

Hide and Seek

If you don't want to use treats or simply want to do something different, get a friend or family member your dog is interested in and have them go hide while you keep your dog distracted. Once they've hidden, let them go and give them the command "find _____" and let them use their noses to seek out the hider. The best part is they can have praise and pets once they find who they're looking for!

Conclusion

Just because your dog has a great nose doesn't mean they need to use it to get into trouble. The sooner you introduce scent-based games, the more likely they are to participate and use their noses for good at your discretion instead of having them follow their snouts randomly when they get bored (although they likely will anyway). If you do it enough and the right way, you can easily gain some additional benefits from their sense of smell, such as helping you track down a free and forged dinner!