Let Them Sniff! – How to use scent work during lockdown

Let Them Sniff! – How to use scent work during lockdown

On the market today there is a wide range of treat and puzzle toys available to offer mental enrichment and stimulation for man’s best friend. These puzzles are a great way of giving your dog some mental exercise, especially during a time when we are so restricted in ways in which we can exercise our dogs.  

But never overlook the power of your dog’s nose! Humans have around 5 million scent receptors in their nose…. BUT A Beagle & a German Shepherd have an estimated 220 million scent receptors each, while other dog breeds have up to 300 million. Another way of looking at it is that we smell spaghetti sauce, but our dogs smell each individual ingredient in the sauce.

Allowing your dog to sniff, or setting up scent games, has a whole raft of benefits – allowing your dog to sniff can help reduce stress and anxiety, has a calming effect, can help manage undesirable behaviours and more!


There are multiple ways in which you can give your dogs plenty of sniffing time while we are in lockdown (and tire them out in the process!). 

– Chop up some really tasty treats and scatter them around your backyard. I use a variety of foods for this: diced apple (except the core), frozen peas or corn kernels, crushed up liver treats, or very small squares of possyum!

– Let your dog lead the way with their nose while out on a walk, otherwise known as a ‘sniffari’. I use a longer leash while walking Woody (2.5m) so he has a bit of freedom but I can still adhere to social distancing rules. With a longer leash I do not need to stop walking quite as often while he stops to sniff. 

– Use a snuffle mat or snuffle ball. These have become very popular! They are fleece mats or balls that you can hide treats or entire meals in and your dog ‘snuffles’ all their food out of the fleece strips.

– Hide treats around your house for your dog to search out. Check out my latest video with Woody here for a simple way to play ‘find it’ round your house! https://www.facebook.com/CompleteCanineCareNZ/videos/652297955552451

– play ‘pick the hand’. Pick up a treat with one hand, put your hands behind your back and swap the treat to the other hand. Then hold out your hands in front and let your dog sniff. They should paw, nuzzle or lick a fist, open it to reveal a treat (or no treat).

– hide and seek! This was a favourite game of our first lab Dudley. There are two ways to play. 

  1. Throw a toy to distract your dog (or scatter a small amount of treats on the floor) then quickly run and hide somewhere else. Start calling your dog every few moments until they find you. Dogs must follow your scent through the house to find you.
  2. Ask your dog to sit and stay in one room while you go hide in another. This builds impulse control because they will have to sit and stay while you move out of site.  


– cups game. Place 3 identical cups upside down and put a treat under one of them. Move the cups around while your dog watches then give them time to guess which cup the treat is under

Stay tuned to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CompleteCanineCareNZ for all the latest fun to have with your pooch at home. 

Happy Sniffing!