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Let's Talk About...the Nose

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

Let's Talk About... is Every Dog Training's blog, where you can find tips, tricks, and information on raising a puppy, training a dog, and finding a new best friend.

Bella's Nose
Bella's got one big sniffer!

Did you know dogs have millions of smell receptor cells? For example, the Dachshund clocks in at 125 million cells while the Bloodhound reigns supreme with around 300 million cells (Stanley Coren, How Dogs Think). Activating those cells is a great way to mentally stimulate your dog, which is just as important as physical exercise. A bored dog usually becomes a destructive dog.

Keep reading for ideas on how to use your dog's nose to keep him happy and healthy!

Tip #1 - Hide Treats in a Snuffle Mat

You can hide treats in a snuffle mat like the one shown in the video. I got Bella's at PetSmart; however, you can easily make your own with some fleece and a rubber sink mat. Don't forget to clean the snuffle mat regularly to get rid of any crumbs or saliva your pup leaves behind.

Tip #2 - Use Puzzle Feeders

Puzzle feeders are another great way to use your dog's nose for enrichment. You can use puzzle feeders at random times with some of your dog's favorite treats, or you can use them at mealtime. Puzzle feeders can be simple, such as a slow feeder, or more complex, like a multi-tiered obstacle course for the nose and brain. Again, remember to keep it clean. Puzzle feeders, with all their moving parts, can be more difficult to clean, so take that into consideration when purchasing. Also, don't go straight to the advanced level. Start your dog off easy (snuffle mat, slow feeder, or beginner-level puzzle) and move them up as they get better at figuring out the puzzles.

"For a dog, his nose not only dominates his face, it also dominates his brain and thus his picture of the world." -Stanley Coren

Tip #3 - Sprinkle Food in the Yard

You can also try sprinkling your dog's food out in the yard or toss treats around for him to find. This is especially effective for scent hounds, whose noses and ears (don't worry, we'll get into that next week) are made specifically for this type of work. Be sure to use a small or well-groomed area so they have a better chance of finding the kibble pieces before the ants. Don't do this if you've recently had any treatments done to your grass, as the dogs can inhale or ingest particles that can make them sick and/or irritate their nose.

Tip #4 - Play Hide and Treat

Another good way to engage your dog's nose is by playing games like Hide and Treat. Start by removing your dog from the room. Hide treats around the room. If this is the first time playing this game, make it easy (like a treat in the middle of the room) so the dog gets the idea and doesn't become discouraged. As the dog gets better, you can up the level: hide treats behind the chair; under a blanket; etc. Let the dog back in the room and give them a cue like "Seek!" or "Find!" When they find the treat(s) reward them with praise (it should go without saying, but don't reward with treats; it would undermine the game).

Use Your Dog's Nose to Your Advantage

Activating a dog's nose is a great way to increase mental stimulation. When a dog gets bored, they tend to get destructive. Keeping their minds active is just as important as keeping their bodies active. If your dog is exhibiting destructive behaviors, try implementing one of the activities above. You can also reach out to Every Dog Training for help.

Comment below with some of your favorite ways to engage your dog's mind and nose!

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