Scent Games for Canine Enrichment
You can give simple scent tasks to particularly frustrated or bored dogs – a job may be just what they need to boost their moods, and the games keep their minds active.
Jill Marie O’Brien, who developed the game below, has worked in the shelter environment for more than 14 years and said she’s seen dogs “with a multitude of behavioral and emotional challenges overcome or at the least improve in noticeable ways after starting training."
“Allowing the dog to work independently, problem-solve and build perseverance with minimal human interference can really build the dog’s confidence.”
Simple Scenting Game
You’ll need five to eight cardboard boxes and super yummy (and highly scented) treats. Experienced staff or volunteers should guide the activity, and keep safety for the dog and human in mind when choosing dogs to participate.
Work with the dogs one at a time without the presence of other dogs. This also makes the game ideal enrichment for dogs who don’t enjoy being around others.
- While the dog isn’t looking, put a treat in one of the boxes
- As she finds the treat, offer praise and a few bonus treats
- Put a fresh treat in the same box and rearrange the boxes
- Encourage the dog to find the treat box again
Want to keep the steps handy? Print this one-page how-to.
More Smell-Based Enrichment Tips
- Allow dogs to sniff while on walks, and walk them in different areas each day if possible.
- Add an interesting scent to bedding, and change the scent frequently. Some facilities have incorporated lavender scents and other fragrances known to promote calmness and relaxation.
- Try “team cleaning” – have a staff member or volunteer walk each dog as their kennel is cleaned. This way, you avoid the dogs coming into close contact with bleach or disinfectant smells and maintain their house training as well.
- Ventilate kennel areas well, since many cleaning chemicals bombard those sensitive noses, increasing stress levels.
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