Sniff It Out!
Games To Exercise Your Dog’s Olfactory Talents

Canines live in a world rich with odour and fragrance. From the time a pup is born, he is busy using his nose to explore his world. Scenting games are a good way of exercising a dog’s mind and keeping him well entertained. Here are some simple games you can start off with:

Which Hand?

This nifty trick is fun to play. Select a small toy or a key chain that fits into your closed fist. Place a small piece of a tasty treat, such as cheese or liver along with the object and close your hand. Present both fists to your dog and ask him “which hand?” Most dogs will nose the hand that contains the food. When your dog does that, immediately praise him, open the fist and let him have the food. If he noses the wrong hand, show him the correct hand, but do not give the treat. Encourage him to try again. As your dog gets the gist that he has to nose the hand that contains the food, you can slowly remove the food. The key chain will carry the scent of it. You can give him the treat separately when he chooses correctly. Over time, the dog will be tuned to sniffing for the key chain in order to get the treat. You can add flair to this game by insisting he touch with a paw or scratch lightly at the correct hand before receiving his treat.


Most dogs love to play this game and if you have kids at home, this game can be a riot! You can play this game indoors and outdoors. One person has to hold the dog, whilst the helper teases the dog by showing it food or a favourite toy and then running off and hiding in another room. Initially, let the dog see the person run off and go into the room. As soon as the person has hidden, let go of the dog with an exciting verbal command such as, “Where is she? Go find her!” When the dog gets to the person, he should be rewarded with a huge amount of praise and be given the toy or treat. As the game progresses, the helper can pretend to go into one room. The person holding the dog then covers its eyes whilst the helper quickly sneaks into another room. Now your dog has to use his nose to find the hidden person.

Don’t distract the dog whilst he is looking for the person, give him a chance to work it out for himself. Only if your dog looks like he is losing interest, then the person hiding can softly cough or whistle to help the dog target the general area for further investigation with his nose. As your dog gets skilled at this game, you can increase the difficulty of the game by playing it at night or in a darkened house, and by hiding in creative places, such as in bathrooms, behind cupboards and under beds or even by lying on the bed and covering yourself with a blanket.

Find The Object

This works on the same principle as the hide ‘n’ seek game, but here the dog is looking for an object instead of a person. Wrap a small piece of food that has a strong smell such as cheese or liver (avoid dry dog biscuits) in a piece of cloth or a kerchief. Show it to the dog, and tease him with it. Then one person holds on to the dog whilst the helper pretends to hide it in various places around the room, under cushions, behind chairs, etc. Leave the cloth in any one of these places and return to the dog. Let the dog see what the helper is doing. Then the person holding the dog should send him off with the command -“Seek the cloth”. Wait till the dog finds it, then praise him exuberantly and open the knot to give him the food. Initially, place the cloth in one area till the dog understands what the game is about. Then slowly you can hide it over a wider area. As the game progresses, do not place food in the cloth; instead give it separately when the dog finds it. Soon the dog will understand that finding the cloth or a toy is what gets the reward. Most dogs enjoy the game so much that they do not care for the reward – for them, sniffing for the object is reward enough.

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