You’ve heard the saying, a tired dog is a happy dog! Dogs who are pent up and full of energy often get themselves into mischief, not to purposely make your life more difficult (although it sometimes feels that way), but because they need some sort of outlet. During the winter time, when the weather is ugly, and it is best to stay inside, it can be difficult to find something to tire out your dog.
Luckily I live in California, where the weather is usually pretty nice, but on rainy days I like to play “scent hunt” with my dogs.
Scent Hunt Background
Scent hunt is the basic version of Nosework, which is a canine sport similar to what K9 detection dogs do. The dogs you see at the airport or at venues wearing vests are detection dogs. They are trained to locate a specific scent, whether it is a type of bomb or some sort of drug. These dogs are used in all sorts of situations, and many are heroes. However, to these dogs, this is all just a game. This is a great little game to try with your dog because they have much more scent detectors in their nose, and often rely on their nose to help them “see” the world. This game may not seem like it would tire a dog out, however, it is incredibly mentally stimulating. When the dog is searching with their nose, you can see the gears in their brain churning, trying to figure out where that scent is!
For the simplified just-for-fun version of scent hunt you will need a few things:
Containers, covers, or boxes to hide the treat/scent (not always necessary, you can use old socks or toys as well!)
A fragrant treat! (my favorite to use are the Real Dog Box smelts...my dogs LOVE them, they’re a great size, and high reward!)
Starting out you can use treats, but as you progress or if your dog isn’t big on food, you can use scents, which are usually essential oils such as, birch, anise, and clove (you can put a couple drops of these on a napkin, and put them in the containers, and dispose after you’re done).
First, lay out the boxes or containers, or whatever you’re using to hide the treats or scents and let the dog smell them and get used to them (some dogs are weirded out by boxes).
Next, let your dog watch as you (if crating them helps, you can do that! But make sure they’re able to see what you’re doing) put the treats in one of the containers and lay them out in front of the dog (don’t hide them yet).
Let your dog out and let your dog smell the boxes. Some dogs may need coaxing; you may need to point at a box to “show” them the game.
When your dog sniffs the correct box, praise them immediately!
Run through these steps again, until your dog understands the game. Now, you can put them in the crate and cover it, or put them in a separate room. You can hide the boxes in various places around the room, and let your dog find it. Remember to praise your dog when they find it!
As your dog understands the game more and more, you can eventually branch out to different rooms, spread out across your house!
It’s important to remember to wash out the containers as best as you can to remove smells from the after every usage, so your dog doesn’t get confused with all the mixed scents.