Did you know that dog's have about 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose, whereas humans only have about 6 million? Proportionally speaking, that makes a dog's sense of smell about 40 times greater than ours - so it should come as no surprise that much of a dog's daily experience is based around smelling!
Providing your dog with various scent games doesn't only allow them to practice what they love best, but also enriches their mind. Next time you're looking for a new activity for your dog, try one of these fun scent games:
Cup Magic Trick
For this game, all you'll need is a few plastic cups and high value dog treats (the stronger the smell, the better).
Similar to what you'd see at a magic show, you'll show your dog a few cups and have them choose which cup has the treat hiding beneath it. To start off, begin with just one cup with a treat underneath it and let them smell it. Once they smell the treat in the cup, pick it up, praise them, and let them eat the treat!
As your dog begins to learn that there's a treat under the cup, add one cup at a time and see if your dog can figure out where the treat it hiding! As your dog masters this game, you can add the command "Find It" by praising them and saying "Good Find it!" each time they choose the correct cup.
New Animal Scents
We recommend playing this game outside, since dog's will naturally want to mark their territory when they sense another animal. There are two ways you can introduce your dog to new animal scents:
If you have family or friends with other types of pets that your dog has never encountered, such as cats, ferrets, birds, guinea pigs, rabbits, etc, you can wrap their pet in a small towel to transfer some of their scent. Bring the towel to your backyard and hide it - then let your dog out and see if they can sniff out the new scent!
Alternatively, you can step it up a notch by going online or to a local outdoor store and purchasing animal scents. These are going to be much stronger, but will also be much more exciting for your dog! With these types of scents, we suggest putting the scent on a stick or a leaf rather than a towel, since they are much more concentrated than the fur of a common house pet.
Hunt for Dinner
In the wild, animals have to track down and kill their prey - dogs have it easy. Let them channel their inner wolf by placing their dinner somewhere other than their normal spot. Start by placing it somewhere else in the same room they normally eat, and as they improve their tracking skills, move it to another room and make it more hidden.
Why stop at food smells? Various essential oils are also great for scent work!
Start by taking one of their toys and placing a few drops of an essential oil on it (lavender, anise, and valerian are great options). Then play a short game of fetch and reward them when you're finished. Repeat this frequently for the first day or two.
After a couple days of fetch, take that same toy and hide it somewhere in your home. Take the same essential oil thats on the toy and place a drop of it on tiny pieces of paper. Form a trail from the toy to your dog's starting place and once you're finished, let them follow the scent to the toy! Be sure to praise them as they follow the trail and reward them when they find the toy.
As your dog masters this game, you can switch up the scents, move it outside, and space the pieces of paper farther apart.