Paul Andrews

Dogs navigate the world with their noses. They have more than 100 million sensory receptors in their noses, and the part of a dog’s brain dedicated to smelling is 40 times larger than in humans. Nose work for dogs can stimulate them mentally, burn energy, build confidence, and encourage overall health and happiness.

Tips to Make Your Dog Use Their Nose More

1. Let Your Dog Sniff During Walks

Use a long leash and allow your dog to sniff everything around for the first five minutes of your walk. It’s not a waste of time for your pup—they’re trying to make sense of their environment and the situation, so it’s a fulfilling experience.

2. Allow Your Dog to Sniff Out New Places

When you visit a new place, give your dog time to smell around. And remember, they’re not just smelling their immediate environment. Depending on the wind and weather, dogs can smell things from about 12 miles away.

3. Go on a Regular Scent Walk

A scent walk allows your dog to smell the freshly cut grass or appreciate the smell of the earth after rain. A simple change in the weather and temperature can bring out a whole new world of scents, and it’s a great opportunity for some exercise!

4. Allow Your Dog to Smell Their Favorite Sniffing Spots

Dogs live by their nose, so they usually go to their favorite sniffing spots to find out if other dogs or humans have been there. Don’t pull your dog away when they’re taking time to examine these areas.

5. Do Nose Work and Scent Games

Nose work for dogs and scent games are sports that get your pup to locate smells and objects using their nose. These games engage dogs mentally and physically and enhance their skills through training and learning. Here’s a quick primer:

  • Hold a strongly scented, high-value treat in your hand
  • Allow your dog to smell the treat
  • Hide the treat in your fist
  • Present both fists to your dog
  • If your dog finds the treat, praise them and give them the treat

You can also hide a toy under a blanket or in a box. If your dog sniffs it out, reward them with praise and extended playtime.

You can even dab a cotton ball with essential oil and teach your pup to sniff it out. The best scents that work for most dogs include blueberry, mint, rose, lavender, blackberry, and linalool.

Protecting Your Dog’s Sense of Smell

Certain substances, age, and disease can affect a dog’s olfactory skills and make them nose blind. A dog experiencing nose blindness may exhibit anxiety and fear because they have trouble navigating and making sense of the world. Here are some tips to help you safeguard your dog’s olfactory sense:

  • Avoid corrosive products: some essential oils, bleach, vinegar, and even the citric acid found in lemons and limes can be toxic and affect a dog’s sense of smell
  • Some antibiotics and steroids can decrease your pup’s sense of smell, so talk to your vet about side effects and possible treatment alternatives
  • Keep your pup away from dust, smoke, and debris, which can inflame their nasal cavity
  • Don’t touch your dog’s nose (your hands carry bacteria and other scents that could disrupt your dog’s sense of smell)
  • Make sure your dog gets plenty of rest
  • Keep your dog hydrated to keep their nasal cavity wet

Your dog’s nose is one of their greatest assets, so encourage them to experience the world and its multitude of enriching scents!