The Nose to use your dog’s senses

Did you know?

  • The brain and thinking uses more calories than any other activity so your dog will often be more tired using his mind than even using his body!
  • The area of a dog’s brain used for scent is 40 times larger than in human’s and it’s estimated that dogs can smell somewhere between 1000 to 10,000 times better than humans, depending on the breed.
  • Dogs need a balance of mental stimulation, physical stimulation and relaxation/ down time to be healthy and happy and ultimately avoid behavior problems.

So..a few suggestions…

PLASTIC BOTTLE TOYS: Make food release toys by using sturdy plastic bottles and drilling holes for kibble.

CONTAINER SNACKS: Save almost empty peanut butter or cream cheese containers for dogs to lick and enjoy.

PATH TO A PRIZE: Line up a path of small treats a few inches apart that lead to a BIG “prize” like a Kong. As your dog gets good at the game, space treats out further and further.

KONGS (FROZEN): Freeze a bit of peanut butter, canned food or dinner leftovers with treats and freeze.

KONGS (HIDDEN): Now take that frozen Kong and hide it and let your dog hunt for it.

KONGS (BOX): Take that frozen Kong, put in a cardboard box and hide the box. (Hidden and box are advanced. Start easy. We want the dog to have fun hunting then increase the challenge vs. frustrating the dog).

DOGSICLE: Line the bottom of a plastic cup with some canned food, yogurt or peanut butter. Then put in a few treats and fill with broth or leftovers and freeze. Pop out of cup for your dog to enjoy.

BUCKET OF FUN: Fill a bucket with your dogs favorite toy, treats and a stuff Kong. Add some water and freeze. Pop out of bucket for your dog to have hours of fun. This is great outside activity to prevent boredom.

BUSY BUCKET: Fill a bucket stuffed with your dog’s favorite toys, a Kong, treats and let him play, play, play!

DOGGIE LASAGNA: Take a square or rectangle container, litterbox or dishpan and put some treats in the bottom, layer an old small towel or washcloth, put a Kong on the next layer, another towel, more treats and repeat layers . Your dog will have fun peeling back the layers using his nose!


PICK A HAND: Put a treat in one of your hands and show your dog. When he paws at your hand or pushes with his nose, reward with a “YES” and treat. If he is wrong, show him but do not reward and try again.

PICK UP CUP: Put a treat under one of three cups. Let your dog figure out which one has the treat and how to get it by using his paw or nose. Make it easy at first starting with the treat showing a bit under cup if necessary.

HIDE AND SEEK: Hide from your dog with a treat. Reward when he finds you. (This is a great game to play while hiking by hiding behind a tree and will encourage your dog to watch for you vs you always watching your dog).

IN THE DARK: Hide from your dog with a treat or hide his Kong or treats in the dark.

HUNT: Take 10-15 tiny treats and hide throughout a room at different levels and around different surfaces. Put your dog behind a gate or on a sit stay at the entrance and then release to “HUNT”.

BLANKET BONUS: Take an old towel, comforter and blanket and hide treat so your dog’s dinner so he has to use his nose to search.

EASTER YEAR ROUND: Put some treats or kibble in an egg carton and tape loosely shut. Watch your dog have fun opening his surprise!

GRASS GOODIES: Toss a handful of treats or kibble and scatter in the yard for your dog to search. You and I would HATE to eat this way but dogs LOVE it!

*Dogs LOVE these games. It’s called enrichment or mental stimulation. It’s what they were bred to do whether your dog is a 5 pound toy breed or a working breed! We would hate to work for our food but dogs are scavengers and love to “hunt”. Once they learn how, they prefer to work for their food! So many dogs who eat all meals out of a bowl are bored, lack mental stimulation and/or often have some type of behavior problems! Try some of the above fun and open up a whole new world for you and your dog!

*NOTE: When working with multiple dogs, it’s best to work separate dogs as not to create competition.

Carol Sumbry – CPDT-KA Certified Professional Dog Trainer

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