A dog’s sense of smell is truly a thing of wonder. From tracking missing persons, to finding tumours in cancer patients, dogs can use their noses for all manner of tasks. In fact, scent training isn’t just useful for Dog Owners. It can also be a crafty way to sharpen your pooch’s mind, bolster their self-esteem, and exercise them indoors. Try our novice-friendly scent training tips and your dog will be a master tracker before you know it!
1. Turn your dog’s favourite toy into a practice scent
It doesn’t matter if it’s a kong, a chew toy, or a tennis ball. If your pup favours it above all others, it will serve as a perfect object for scent training. Whatever the item may be, ensure you stick with it for the length of your training. Similarly, you should conduct your indoor training in one dedicated space – like the living room.
2. Play fetch before scent training to put your dog in the zone
Playing fetch with your pooch before scent training will serve two purposes. Firstly, it will engage their mind and body and excite them for what’s to come. Secondly, fetch closely mimics many of the aspects of scent training. By playing it with them before training their sense of smell, you’ll set the right tone for them to learn. You don’t want to exhaust them, so keep your game of fetch to around 10 minutes.
3. Begin by training their nose, eyes, and ears at once
Once they’ve taken a whiff of their toy, place it somewhere they can clearly see on the floor. This will allow them to connote the smell of the toy with its appearance. For maximum results, let them watch you place the toy on the floor.
Now the fun can begin in earnest. Begin by putting your pup on a leash and giving them a verbal command, such as “Seek ball” or “Find kong”. If they don’t retrieve it, lead them to the item on their leash. Once they’ve seized it in their mouth, reward them with praise, rubs, and treats.
Repeat this process until they respond to your command on their own. After drilling the exercise several times, they will connect your verbal command with the scent of the item.
4. Progress to hiding the item
Is your furry friend acing step #3? If so, they may be ready to rely solely on their nose to find the item. To this end, give them another sniff of their toy, then hide it within your indoor space. You could choose to conceal it behind a lounge, under a cardboard box, or in an adjacent room. Next, use the verbal command you’ve created to set your pooch on the hunt. When they find the item, shower them with treats and use your “who’s a good dog?” voice to praise them.
5. Test their sense of smell outdoors
By now, your pooch could be on the path to becoming a K-9 in the making. Now that they’ve grasped the basics, you can begin to test them in an outdoor environment. By practicing the above drills in a park or backyard, you can train your pooch to ignore other smells. They’ll also learn to phase out distractions, such as strange noises, other animals, and the effect of the breeze on their tracking. For an extra challenge, have a friend hide the item while you remain with your dog.
Would you like a hand training your furry friend’s nose? Book a Mad Paws Dog Trainer!