One of our previous blogs shares the science behind the extraordinary scent powers of a dog. Read “How Stress affects Dogs and Cats regarding their extraordinary sense of smell (they can smell our stress among other things!) How Stress affects Dogs & Cats – Association of Pet Professionals
While puppies are nearly blind at birth, their sense of smell is fully developed. The part of the brain that analyzes scent is 40 times bigger in a dog’s brain than ours. To fully engage and entertain dogs you are pet sitting, try these simple and inexpensive games and activities.
(1). Treasure Hunt: Hide treats throughout the house!
- Start with 1 or 2 in plain sight (when she’s not looking). Call her and say, “FIND IT”.
- After she gobbles those, say ‘GOOD FIND IT” and repeat the process in less obvious places.
- Get creative with a food dispensing object (Kong) or smear cheese on a rubber toy you can hide (best on a non-carpeted surface).
- To play scent games outside, hide frozen cubes of meat broth. Repeat the command “FIND IT” and praise with “GOOD FIND IT” when she discovers the treat.
(2). Shell Game: Start with 4 sturdy coffee-cup sized containers.
While she’s watching, place a treat underneath one cup then move it back and forth. Say “FIND IT”. When she sniffs the cup, lift it up and say, “GOOD FIND IT”. This is easy with only one cup, right? To intensive the game, add another cup, then another, repeating the process (like a magician moving the cups back and forth). Make sure you say, “GOOD FIND IT” and reveal the treat underneath when she sniffs the right cup.
(3). Hide ‘N Seek: YOU are the treat!
When she’s in another room, sneak off and hide somewhere. If you have an active dog, she will come looking for you. When you “sense” her sniffing for you, reveal yourself with “GOOD FIND IT” and provide a treat as praise.
(4). Muffin Tin Game: This is very popular and requires a simple muffle tin, treats and balls.
Place treats at the bottom of each cup hole. Put a ball on top to cover the treats (tennis balls work great). Your dog will have to move the ball to get to the treat. This not only helps them practice their scent work, but also exercises their problem-solving skills and mental stimulation needs.
(5). Box Search: This is a great way to reuse those Amazon delivery boxes!
When she’s out of the room, place several empty boxes on the floor and fill most of them (not all) with treats. Bring her into the room and encourage the hunt with FIND IT! Praise her for each “find”. Put the boxes away when all the treats are gone to signal the game is over.
Get creative and have fun practicing scent work with dogs in your care. Be sure to share these pet sitting experiences and the dog’s performance with your clients. They will love you for it (and may try these games in their home!)
Hugs from your Pet Pro Team @ Aopp