Nose Work: Using Your Dogs Sense of Smell for Fun

Dogs are very intelligent creatures, and like all smart animals, they need to be kept engaged. For some dogs this may take the form of high energy physical activity while in others it may be more lowkey. Regardless of how your dog expresses his or her need for a challenge, it can be hard to keep them engaged and entertained on days when you’re stuck in the house on a rainy or bad weather day, (use a raincoat!) People living in Seattle or Chicago might have to come up with more ideas than a family in Los Angeles but anyone with a dog (no matter where you live and what breed you own) is best served by knowing how to keep their furry friends entertained on indoor days.

Part of the reason being indoors with a dog can be difficult is that many dogs’ personalities can change drastically in a storm. Once that thunder starts crashing and the rain falls, your generally well-mannered and cheerful little friend can suddenly become nervous, anxious, or even aggressive. Don’t take this personally – storms just scare some dogs! Once you move past any guilt you might have about the mood your dog is in, you’ll realize there is actually a lot you can do to keep your friend engaged and happy.

One of the most popular things to do indoors with dogs is something called “nose work.” The term is relatively new, but the idea isn’t anything so groundbreaking. Nose work is pretty self-explanatory: using your dog’s natural instinct as a hunter and tracker to keep him/her engaged with scent-related puzzles and challenges. But it’s really much more than that. You’re not simply hiding a treat and giving your pet a chance to find it. Basic nose work in the home could involve hiding treats or favorite scent toys in places that are especially hard to find – think inside an already strong-smelling blanket or fabric.

Of course, if you want to get more advanced, there are all kinds of nose work challenges and training exercises you can access online. Some of these more advanced challenges involve finding a particularly scented treat or toy among many other hidden scents. Some great tips can be found on the website of the National Association of Canine Scent Work – an organization specifically devoted to teaching people more about this wonderful activity.

One of the especially great things about nose work challenges is that any dog can do it. It’s not physically demanding, and all your dog needs is a sense of smell…something they all have in spades. Remember, dogs’ natural desire to be challenged often expresses itself in the form of physical activity. But just like humans, mental challenges can be just as stimulating and just as effective at tiring them out.

There’s also no reason these types of activities should be limited to bad weather days. Nose work is great for days where you might not have the energy to go out. If you’re physically challenged or injured you might find it hard to go out very much and your furry friend might also be a service animal. Games like this are great for highly intelligent service dogs whose time outside might be limited by your lack of mobility. Finally, older dogs aren’t always so limber, but they have minds that are just as sharp as their younger counterparts.

Whatever the situation you find yourself in, and whatever kind of dog you have, you’ll find that nose work is a great way to have fun with your little friend.