NoseWork For Dogs: What’s All The Fluff About?

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What Is NoseWork?

NoseWork for dogs is a type of dog sport that allows our dogs to use their natural desire to sniff and hunt.

It’s an activity that has been adapted from professional detection dog work, to help provide enrichment and mental stimulation for our companion dogs.

Our dog’s noses are much more sensitive than ours. In fact, their ability to analyse smells is up to 40 times greater than ours.

So, playing sniffing games with them can be a fantastic outlet for excess energy. Especially on rainy or cold days where outdoor exercise may not be possible.

Nosework is also known to be a great activity to help build confidence in anxious dogs.

In this article, we’ll learn more about the popular world of nosework for dogs. Let’s get started.

Is NoseWork Good For Dogs?

Yes, nosework is good for most dogs as long as the level of difficulty is adapted for the individual dog.

A structured sniffing game, in which a dog can succeed by utilising its natural talents, can help make our dog’s feel more confident.

During nosework, a dog will be exposed to a variety of controlled challenges which they can learn to overcome on their own. And succeeding at small challenges on a regular basis, can often really do wonders for timid and anxious dogs.

But even if your dog isn’t anxious at all, nosework will still be beneficial for you and your dog, as it’s an enrichment activity that provides mental stimulation, which is good for the well-being of your dog.

How Do I Teach My Dog To Do NoseWork?

To teach your dog nosework, you can either join a regular class with a nosework instructor, or you can simply play more sniffing games with your dog at home.

Joining a NoseWork Class

If you join a regular class, you and your dog can work your way up through different levels of difficulty, while having the structured guidance from an instructor. You’ll start with sniffing for yummy treats, and then learn to sniff for specific target odours. Later on, you may even decide to compete in trials, but that’s totally up to you.

Playing sniffing games at home

If you don’t want to join a class, or don’t have one available near you, you can simply play more sniffing games with your dog in the comfort of your own home.

Here’s a simple game you can try:

  1. Take 3-6 cardboard boxes in different sizes
  2. Set them up in a dedicated corner in a room inside your home
  3. Take 5 pieces of your dog’s favourite treats, and prepare an extra 5 pieces for rewards
  4. Hide the treats in different spots of the boxes (put one on top of a box, one inside a box, one behind a box, …)
  5. Bring your dog, and tell them your cue word, for example “find it”
  6. Your dog will naturally go to sniff for the yummy treats
  7. Every time your dog finds a hidden treat, verbally praise (“yes” or “good girl/boy”) and give another one of the extra treats to reward your dog and to reinforce the behaviour.
Nosework setup for at home
Example of an easy home-setup for nosework with cardboard boxes

NoseWork Toys & Supplies For Dogs

Nosework toys are becoming increasingly popular, with more and more different types becoming available on a regular basis.

As indicated above, if you don’t want to spend any money on new toys, you can play lots of different games with cardboard boxes – simply mix & match in how you set them up.

You can also hide treats in empty toilet paper rolls, which you can hide somewhere in the house for your dog to find.

Or you can wrap some treats in a dedicated towel, and then your dog will intuitively go sniff for the treats and figure out a way to get them out of the towel.

Snuffle Mats

Other than the above, another popular way to play sniffing games with dogs is to utilise snuffle mats.

A snuffle mat is typically made from fleece or similar materials, and it’s a toy in which you can hide treats, which your dog can then sniff for.

You can make a DIY snuffle mat yourself, buy a locally hand-made one through local farmers markets or online on Etsy , or choose from many different styles on Amazon.

Dog playing with snuffle mat at home
Big snuffle mat for dogs



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