One of the first nose work games you can teach your dog is the which hand game. It’s the simplest method to get your dog used to use his nose rather than eyes.
With a small piece of food or treat on hand put it inside one of your hands and close your fists while your dog is watching. Present your dog with both hands and ask him “which hand?” If your dog doesn’t have great manners and begins to gnaw or scratch at your hand. You’ll probably want to work on some impulse control while you’re at it.
Praise him when he lightly nudges, puts his nose on your hand. Or paws at the correct hand – whichever behavior you prefer.
If your dog chooses the wrong hand opens them up to show him where the treat is. Don’t give him the treat if he chooses the wrong hand. But don’t scold him either. Just close your fists and try again. When he gets it right give him a ton of praise and reward him with the treat. Eventually, with simple games like this, your dog will begin to start using his natural talent, his nose, rather than relying on visuals.
How to Play the Which Hand Game:
- Put a treat in one of your hands as your dog is watching
- Close your fists and extend both hands out towards your dog
- Ask your dog “which hand?” and wait for them to choose
- If they choose the correct hand to praise them like & open your fist to give them the treat
- If they choose the wrong hand open them up to show them & try again
It’s important not to scold or discourage your dog if they choose the wrong hand. The purpose of this game is to encourage your dog to start using their nose rather than eyes, so it’s important to keep the game fun & rewarding
Nose Work Game: Hiding Things Around the House
Even though dogs have a sense of smell 2000 times greater than ours they tend to use their eyes a lot. Nose work games will help them focus on smells. To teach your dog to use his nose instead of visuals you’ll want to start with an object that’s really smelly. Popcorn or smelly treats work well here.
Have your dog sit in his stay position. Place the treat or popcorn around the corner or just slightly out of the line of sight and tell your dog to go “find it.” Some dogs dog might get a little frustrated at first if they’re not able to find the treat immediately.
You can encourage and praise him when he’s close, you can even point it out to him if he’s having trouble. You’re aiming to make it fun and exciting for him, so make sure you praise your dog like crazy when he finds it.
When I was teaching my dog this step I would make it easier on her by dragging the object on the floor or making ‘scent pads’ so it was easier for her to track with her nose. As your dog becomes more adept at sniffing things out you can up the challenge. I like to place objects on chairs, under rugs, on the couch, or on window sills – anywhere she’s not going to see right away.
How to Play The Find It Game With Your Dog
The find it game is my favorite nose work game for dogs. It’s the most versatile, and it’s the one my dog enjoys most. And the best part is it’s super easy. All you have to do is pick some treats and hide them around the house.
How to play find it with your dog:
- Pick some smelly treats to have your dog find
- As they’re in the stay position start placing treats around the house
- Place some treats in obvious spots, and some in more challenging locations such as under rugs
- Once you have some treats hidden tell your dog to “find it”
- Encourage them as they run around finding treats
- If they’re missing some you can point or give them clues
To help dogs out when starting this game you can make scent trails for them to follow. You can drag a piece of kibble or dry treat along the floor, making it easier for your dog to smell their way to it. You might want to skip that step if you’re using treats that don’t lend well to dragging such as cheese. You can also get your dog handmade mats.