It's been estimated that a dog's olfactory sense is up to 1,000 times stronger than mere humans'. When you do something well, you enjoy doing it often, which explains why dogs incorporate sniffing into a lot of the activities they take part in, from greeting others to playtime. Some have even made a career out of sniffing, helping law enforcement and others with their unique canine talent.
Games Fight Boredom
No matter what breed your dog is, if she spends a lot of time on her own, indoors or out, she probably fights boredom now and then. She'd love to spend some quality time with you playing a game you can both enjoy. Sniffing games are a constructive way to interact with your dog, whether you play them indoors on a rainy day or outside on a sunny afternoon. They're not only an entertaining way to spend a few hours together, they'll hone your dog's sniffing talents, too.
Scent Games for Your Dog
There are all sorts of ways you can play sniffing games with your dog. Try a good old-fashioned round of hide and seek with you hiding from your dog and calling her only once to get the hunt started. Hide her favorite toy under a rug or behind a pillow or conceal several treats in different places when she is out of the room, then call her in and tell her to "go find." You can also play a shell game with your dog, hiding a treat under one cup and then shuffling them about before allowing her to sniff out which cup the treat is under.
Sniffing Champs Can Go Pro
Sniffing games can be a stepping stone to a career for some dogs. Having started out playing simple games of hide and seek with their humans, these dogs have been trained to focus on specific items and are uncannily accurate at sniffing out bombs, bodies, drugs and other contraband. A job as a smellologist could be in your dog's future if she has the right stuff, but if all she's interested in finding is gourmet dog treats, be warned that the market for those positions might not be as wide open as others.
Is Sniffing for Every Dog?
It's not a given that just because your dog has a superior sense of smell that she would like to make a career out of an enjoyable pastime. The dogs who make the best professional sniffers are the ones who live to sniff, but they have other characteristics, too, like stamina, agility and a willingness to work and take direction. Professional sniffers are hard to distract, too, latching onto a scent and letting nothing deter them from finding the object of their search. Even dogs who are genetically predisposed to be terrific trackers aren't always the best choices for a sniffing job and are happy to let tracking scents remain a game.
By Elle Di Jensen
When Pigs Fly!: Training Success with Impossible Dogs; Jane Killion
Agility Bits: Indoor Games for Dogs
Voice 4 Dogs: Dog Games
Bomb-Sniffing Dogs; Meish Goldish
Doc Halligan’s What Every Pet Owner Should Know; Karen Halligan
DogChannel.com: Super Sniffing Dogs
About the Author
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.