Nose Work – At Home Activities

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Are you curious if your dog will like this sport?

Nose work (also called scent work) is a great activity for all dogs. Young or old, insecure or bold! If your dog like’s to use their nose (and what dog doesn’t!?) they will probably like this sport!

For newcomers to dog sports, this is a great one to try, as the two largest organizations (NACSW and AKC) have nationwide coverage, and it is pretty easy to start out at home and see if this will be something to pursue further.

(Outside of performance events, nosework activities are great for providing your doggo with mental exercise. The activities are also great when there is bad weather, or if you are feeling under the weather! It keeps your dog exercised without exerting a lot of (human) energy.)


Snuffle Mat

Snuffle mat’s are made from felt and have lots of nooks and crannies to fit treats or kibble. Try using the snuffle mat for dinner, instead of the normal bowl. My pup is usually more excited about dinner when he needs to search for it. For a DIY version, lay out a flat towel, and start rolling the ends, drop kibble into the cracks every couple turns, after it is all rolled up, lay it on the ground for your dog to unravel. (if it is too easy, try tying the ends into a big knot or adding some knots for complexity)


Puzzle games are also a great way to feed treats or kibble (I usually like to add both to increase excitement). There are ranges of difficulty; start with a low or intermediate, and work your way up. If your budget allows, alternate the puzzles; your dog is smart and doing the same puzzle day after day will be too easy.

Box in a Box

Save those amazon boxes! And even better, those boxes that ‘slide’ open. Just like those russian stacking dolls. Make the equivalent from boxes you have around your home. Start with the smallest box and put in some super tasty treats, put that into a larger box, and then into an even bigger box. Don’t expect to reuse these items… Sometimes the fastest way to the treats is doggy destruction!

*All items shown are products I have personally purchased on Amazon. If you purchase through these links, thank you!, it helps support the website


Games are a great way to build your dog’s drive, practice focus, and grow the owner/handler and dog bond!

“Get It”

“Get it” is an interactive game that stimulates the dogs prey drive and is a good building block for obedience and focus skills. Your dog will learn:

  • a cue for how this treat will be delivered
  • gives your dog an OK to get a treat on the ground
  • and it serves as a ‘reset’ for training work

Use your cue (Get It), pause, then do a gentle underhand treat throw. They will run to pick up the yummy moving treat. If your dog tracks the treat well, try throwing further at higher speed. End state goal is for your dog to understand that “Get It” means there is a treat about to be thrown. Your dog will likely run very quickly to go after it.

  • To really stretch his legs, throw it in one direction, and after he picks it up, cue and toss it in the opposite direction.
  • If you have a smaller dog and they aren’t tracking the treat in the air well, try throwing it bowling style closer to the ground.

“Find It”

This is a great game to play around the house – in essence you hide a treat around the house, and your dog uses his nose to sniff it out.

  1. Gather up a handful of treats.
  2. Keep your dog in a sit/stay or hold onto his collar and place the treat a few feet away.
  3. Say your cue (“Find It!”, “Where Is It?”, or your cue of choice) and release the dog to get the treat!
  4. Once get gets it – partake in his joy for playing the easiest game ever! “YAY!”
  5. The next time place it a little further away but still a place where he can see your hand place it (corners or behind an object is good), saw your cue and let him free to find the cookie!
  6. Repeat with greater and greater difficulty.

My dog doesn’t have a great “stay” when I am out of line of sight, so when we play I put him in his kennel and hide the treat or treats around the room. Open up the kennel, “Find it!” and he is off sniffing!

This video also gives a great description for the game and steps for a dog new to the game.

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