This is related to the food toys blog, with a bit of a twist. This is focused on letting the dog use their nose to find the food.
Dog noses are remarkable things and most humans simply can’t appreciate how remarkable those noses are. One description that stuck with me: A dog can smell a teaspoon of sugar in an Olympic sized pool. Impressive, eh?
So one game that can be very useful in engaging the brain and get them busy is having them search for food or toys. You can hide food in small containers and hide them around the house. You can drop kibble around the yard and have them search for it. You can practice “stay and release” games where you place your dog in a sit-stay or down-stay, throw a bit of kibble down a hallway and then release the dog to go and get it.
The limits on this are up to you. My only caution is that you make sure to hide the food or toy in places where the dog can actually access it and that you remember that some dogs will try to dig it out if it’s stashed in a sofa or under a pillow. So don’t set yourself or your dog up for frustration by placing food or a toy some place that could get damaged as the dog strives to access it.
I do scent classes with my pug, Josephine. In scent class, she has to find the location of a specific scent and then tell me where it is. If she’s right, she gets a food reinforcement for this. The finding game is similar except we aren’t training an “alert”, we are just engaging their brains for fun.
I’ve included some photos of Jo’s scenting. As you can see, the scent is hidden in a variety of different things…..Christmas stockings, luggage, purses, etc.
Last word of caution….I do this with one dog at a time. Doing this with all three of mine might set them up for a fight over found treasures. Just be aware that resource guarding a valuable thing (like food) isn’t aberrant behaviour. If someone ran in and tried to steal something you valued, you might react, too. So be aware that you don’t want to create a situation where a fight might result.