Nose Work 2 Continuing Nose Games

Sniffing and following scent is instinctual, natural, and fun for dogs; it is fun to teach them to use their noses appropriately and on command, and it allows them to hone a natural instinct.  This is a game that can be taught and played by puppies and geriatric dogs; there is no age limit for Nose Games!  In Nose Work 1 we discussed getting your dog ready for more nose games and the beginning of teaching him to use his nose.  Next we worked on the Scent Discrimination and the Passive Alert.

Nose Work 2 will teach you how to do intermediate nose games and begin to put this information together at home and away for more fun and games for both of you.   There are two main ways that your dog follows a scent:

  • Air scenting: following his nose quickly and through the air
  • Tracking or ground scenting: following a scent foot step to foot step,

Nose Work 2 will discuss mostly air scenting although most dogs will also sniff the ground occasionally, their focus is generally following the scent through the air.   In Nose Work 3 we will discuss tracking.

Now you can begin hiding the scent all over the house (use the PVC pipe with holes drilled in it so your dog can’t access the scent rag), and hide it on all levels low, mid and high.  Your dog should be laying down immediately when he finds the scent!  Remember to reward and praise!

It is normal for your dog to have difficulty finding the scent occasionally, and even going back to previous spots you have hidden it, because the scent is still strong there for him.  If he is wrong, or is having trouble finding it, don’t panic or give up!  To help him when he is having trouble, simply walk toward the room or the object, don’t show it to him or say anything just walk in the general vicinity and continue to give him the command and praise him for footsteps in the correct direction.

Never give up or show him where it is hiding!  Be patient, give him a chance to make mistakes and learn, this is all part of the process.  Soon you will be having other people hide the scent without your knowledge of where it is, so you will need to trust in his nose and be patient that he can work out the problem on his own!  Each success will bring confidence!

Next have friends and family hide the scent throughout the house while you distract him, and eventually work with your dog not knowing where the scent is hidden.  When your dog’s nose is reliable and he is passively alerting you can move the game outside.

Start in your own front yard or somewhere familiar and not overly exciting to your dog.  Go back a few steps and make the first few hides easy to find so that your dog can succeed easily and quickly.  Also start by hiding the scent fairly close to the dog, the farther away you hide the scent the more skill it will take for your dog to find the scent.

I always use a long leash and either a buckle collar or a harness.  Scent work is the only time I like to use a harness, but when teaching your dog to use his nose it is important that you allow him to lead you to the scent.  He must be out in front of you and able to dart from side to side sniffing and trying to locate the object, so this is the one time I allow my dogs to lightly pull on the leash, however, I still do not want to be aggressively pulled from one area to another.

If your dog does not have good leash manners you may want to back up and work on those first!  My dogs know exactly how long their leashes are and how vigorously they can pull when we play this game.  I want them to be exuberant about having fun and enjoying themselves but I require respect anytime they are working on a leash.  It is imperative that you don’t lose good obedience skills in order to play these games.  Games are a privilege, obedience and respect is a requirement!

Once you dog has mastered being outside and locating the scent in a fairly easy to find and close proximity, then you can start hiding the pipe and rag in more difficult places and begin placing it further.  Normally I chose to add one difficulty level at a time: stay within a short proximity and hide the object in a more difficult place i.e. “in” bushes and under things like cars, trucks, rocks OR I hide the object further away but in a fairly easy to find place.  Once your dog has continually successfully accomplished one of these tasks then move to the next level of training.

Be sure that you are hiding the scent on variable levels outside too; on top of things, underneath things and even up out of his reach!  There are no rules to this game except to work up slowly with your dog and back up when necessary if he is having trouble.  Be careful and use common sense and do not trespass!  This is a great game to play in the local children’s park, in a field or even along a walk.

Have fun with this game and training!  This is good exercise for you and also good for your dog, for his mind and his body!  This is also something that can be played inside on a rainy day, or a HOT Southern day, and can be taken outside basically anywhere.  You can play this with friends and family and you can also play this with multiple dogs and see whose nose is better.  I love playing this game and adding more distractions and levels of difficulty for my dog.

Once my dog is an expert I can even add another scent to the mix.  Remember, when you add a new scent you, must go back to step one and a new scent box (remember only one scent per box) and work your way through the training list, teaching him that this is a new scent you want him to alert you too.   The more scents you add the more variety and difficulty you can add to this game, but just make sure he is ready!

Teach him to utilize his nose in a manner that pleases you both and you will be in for years of fun and enjoyment, and this is a even great party trick to impress your friends!


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  1. Cathy says:

    Thank you so much for the Nosework II post. It helps to watch and read that, in thinking about the importance of various steps in the first phase.
    ready to play!


    Minette Reply:

    You will love it! It is so much fun!


  2. Vikie says:

    I have several friends who do nosework with their dogs. Where I live, however, there are no classes for this, so I plan to teach my dog myself and I am glad to find your articles. Our land is totally forest and we have at least 5 moose who hang around on our property. What we would like to teach our dog to find are moose antlers that have been shed. Since we don’t have any for her to associate with the scent, I’m not sure we will be able to teach this. Any suggestions?


    Minette Reply:

    You can purchase Moose antlers as dog chews. look them up online, buy one to use as your source.


  3. Andrea says:

    Do you know of anyone holding classes near Grand Island N. Y.


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