Scent Games Enrichment for Dogs: Nose Games

I include nose games in the curriculum of my dog training classes.

Why? Dogs possess this incredible organ that we seldom encourage them to employ for daily enrichment—the nose.

Teaching our dogs how to search for treats and items by scent is genuinely enriching and is a behavior that dogs engage in daily, being dogs. When we teach and encourage behaviors dogs innately use, the scenario is win-win.

Scent Games Enrichment for Dogs

Dogs with jobs

How many canine jobs can you think of that take advantage of the dogs’ superior sense of smell? Here are but a few:

  • Cancer detection
  • Drug sniffing
  • Bomb detection
  • Seizure alert
  • Search and Rescue
  • School Weapon Detection
  • Tracking fugitives
  • Landmine detection
  • Cadaver dogs

So many dogs with so many talents!

Our dogs

Why not help the family dog make the most of their own olfactory organ? Nose work and nose game workshops are faining popularity.

I attended a Nose Games Weekend at Pat Miller`s Peaceable Paws. As I previously taught Bridget Go Find It, I had a fair idea that she would excel at more advanced nose games. This proved to be the case.

Scent Games Enrichment for Dogs
Bridget using scent to locate kibble that was hidden around the yard.

We worked Bridget hard, and gave her challenges she was up to. For example, we had her wait out of sight, and then locating treats that we hid in the wild mishmash of tack room scents.

Recently I have had feedback from owners who participated in my classes, proud of how their own dogs had progressed, and happy to have another form of enrichment for their dogs.  From Judy Copple in Elkton MD :

“Spent the last 1/2 hour with Denali waiting in the kitchen while i was hiding treats in the living room and on command “go find” she would go find all the treats. We were able to go three rounds of this and she had enough! I was so so proud of her waiting in another room and being able to find the treats. Later today or tomorrow we will be working on Staying when she has a little bit more patience ;-)..Thanks Leslie once again…But yes to make it easy you do have to train the human first, before the animal lol…”  And yes, Judy is absolutely correct by the way! Dog training is as much about helping the human learn new behaviors, as it is the dog!

Following is a summary of the activities we participated in at Peaceable Paws.

Go Find It

The basic first step:

  • toss treat a short distance as you cue Go Find It,
  • click when the dog arrives at the treat, in plain sight
Wait/Go Find It

A bit more advanced:

  • have your dog wait, while you step away a short distance
  • place treats in plain sight
  • release your dog and cue Go Find It
Hide Treats/Dog Watching


  • have your dog wait while you hide treats behind or around nearby objects
  • return and release with Go Find It cue
  • click as the dog arrives at each treat
Hide Treats/Dog out of sight


  • have your dog wait behind a barrier
  • leave and place treats hidden out of sight around a room
  • return and release the dog

At this point it was delightful to see Bridget on an active olfactory search, using scent to locate the treats, forehead furrowed in concentration, nose to the ground, and snuffling away.

Scent Discrimination

  • finding a treat in a single box, marking the box upon finding
  • teaching “take scent” from gauze pad and release to find and mark box with a treat
  • scent discriminate between two boxes with one empty,
  • scent discriminate between three boxes with two empty, correctly locating and marking the box with the treat in it

It was a wonderful, challenging and invigorating weekend, learning alongside one of my own dogs.

Related articles:
The Healing Power Of The Outdoors: Can Spending Time Outside Benefit a Dog’s Health?

Further reading:
Three Simple Nose Work Games to Play With Your Dog
33 Simple Ways to Keep Your Dog Busy Indoors

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