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Boredom Busters – 3 Quick and easy Scentwork brain games for your dog.

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brain games for dogs

Brain games for dogs is as essential as a walk. Your dogs learning potential is HUGE! I refuse to believe your dog is stubborn, stupid, or lazy. You just haven’t found their favourite game yet.

Scentwork is a super easy, and quick, way to entertain your dog. Its not always easy to keep your dog entertained. Little games throughout the day can break up the boredom of being left behind.

Not to mention the relationship enhancing benefits of playing with your dog.

Fetch can get boring pretty fast.

So can tuggy games.

So how about putting your dogs nose to use and play some scentwork games!

Benefits of Scentwork brain games for dogs.

Scent games are a fun way for your dog to engage their brain and test their searching skills.

A dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times better than ours. Have you ever lost a treat under the sofa, only for your dog to be still trying to get to it hours later? That’s the power of their nose!

You might be surprised to hear that finding the treat is not the only rewarding part. The fun also comes in the searching.

Your dog will be using their natural instincts and born talent to search for whatever you want them to. Dogs love to work along side us, its what they were bred to do!

You don’t need to spend hours and hours walking, or throwing a ball for your dog until they are too tired to carry on. A few minutes of brain games, scentwork, or training really can do wonders.

Dogs absolutely love these games, they can all be done indoors, and best of all, they’re quick and easy. Be prepared for a calm, chilled out pooch!

Choosing the right treat or toy

It might be kinda obvious, but stinky treats are the best! That means cheese, chicken, hotdog, sprats. Anything stinky is yummy for your dog.

You might also want to consider soft treats, as they are easier to swallow for your dog, which means you can move on quickly, rather than waiting for crunching and hoovering up crumbs.

You can also get a little creative, and used sliced, cooked meats which stick nicely to walls and vehicles.

If your dog is not much of a foodie, and much prefers their toys. you can hide them in different places instead. The downside of using toys is that they can be bulky and much harder to hide. They also do not carry as much scent as food, so may be a little harder to find.

sniffer dog

Getting started

Brain games for dogs should be exciting and fun for you and your dog. Keep sessions short, with plenty of rewards. You can even use your dogs breakfast or dinner instead of treats to get them searching.

Brain games for dogs get them thinking, learning, and working with you as a team. They can be mentally tiring, and are a great substitute for a walk if on crate rest or in bad weather.

Which hand?

This is one of the easier scentwork games, as its a choice between two hands. Its super simple and gets a dog used to hunting for treats.

All you need to do is hide a delicious treat in one hand, close both hands to make fists, then hold your hands to your dog and see which one he picks.

Let him gently nudge your hand, then give him the reward! If he chooses the wrong hand, still open your hand and let him see there’s nothing there, then let him move on to the correct hand.

BEWARE – If you are using stinky foods like cheese or chicken, the smell can transfer to your hand easily. So your hand will still smell like chicken even though there is no chicken in it, and this might confuse your dog. Have 2-3 repetitions before washing your hands to remove the scent. You can then resume the fun!

To add some difficulty, get the whole family involved, and see your dog sniff everyone’s hands before finding the treat!

Never scold or discourage your dog from sniffing the wrong hand. Your dog will soon learnt he most effective way to find the treat!

Food search

As with most training, the best place to start is in the home. Its far less distracting, and its an environment where your dog is used to all of the different smells and sights.

Your dog should be able to do a sit/stay confidently, and for up to 30 seconds. For tips on teaching a stay, click here.

You will also be teaching your dog a cue to begin searching. This can be ‘find it’ or ‘search’.

Place your dog in a sit/stay. Walk a few paces in front of him and place the treat on the ground. Release him to find it using your cue.

After a few repetitions, he should be dashing to the treat!

Make the search a little harder by hiding it slightly out of sight of where he is sitting, but where he could easily find it, like around a corner, but in the middle of the floor.

Next you could try hiding it near items, like chairs, or furniture.

Gradually build up to hiding it out of sight, or in a really difficult place, like on a door handle, dining room chair, window sill.

The only limit is your creativity when it comes to hiding a treat!

Room Search

The ultimate brain game for dogs. What can be more fun than searching an entire room, or rooms, for treats. Just like a real drug detection dog!

Now your dog knows he can find one treat, lets make it harder!

Start with your dog in another room. No cheating, make sure he can’t see where those treats are hidden!

Hide 2-5 treats around the room. Start with an easy search, maybe two in the middle of the room, around a metre apart. Then gradually make it harder.

Go back to your dog, and release him to search. If he knows the game well he should be super excited and dash to find the treats.


Feel free to help him out by pointing in the general area that the treat is located. Avoid pointing directly at the treat, you don’t want him to rely on you too much.

As your dog gets better and better, you can start to make the locations of the treats harder and harder. Include more rooms, and trickier places.

HINT: Stairs seem to be a really tricky place for a dog to search as they seem to like to dash up and down, rather than take their time.

Remember, brain games for dogs are supposed to be highly rewarding, and full of fun! If you feel you or your dog are becoming frustrated, end the session for the day, or at least a few hours, and try again later.

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Tug e nuff