Nosework Games And Training For Dogs

What Is Nosework For Dogs?

Nosework Training For Dogs

Nosework is a series of games and activities where dogs use their scent detection ability to carry out certain tasks.

Nosework developed from the activities of trainers and dogs in search and rescue organisations. It uses the dog’s natural hunting instinct and sense of smell. A dog’s sense of smell is more than 10,000 more powerful than our own.

Nosework helps dogs develop their natural abilities and is great for both mental and physical stimulation.

It is an activity that dogs really enjoy and builds a stronger bond between dog and owner.


There is no special equipment needed. To get started all you need is a few tasty treats. It can be done indoors, so on a rainy day when you don’t feel like going out you can use nose training as a substitute. During the exercises, your dog is using a lot of brain power and at the end of it will be quiet tired.

At its most basic, you train your dog the find or seek commands. You hide something and your dog finds it using only his sense of smell.

Nosework is not a form of obedience training, neither will it train your dog to the standard needed in professional scent detection work.

The Benefits Of Nosework

Nosework can be done just about anywhere – inside or out

There is no age limit. No dog is too old or too young.

Your dog does not have to have completed any obedience classes before starting.

Dogs can burn lots of mental and physical energy during activities.

Nosework helps build the confidence of shy and fearful dogs.

Active dogs burn up their energy in a fun and enjoyable way.

In classes or competitions dogs work one at a time so even reactive dogs can participate.

Finding the hidden treat or toy is the reward so the game is self-motivating.

Examples of nose-work games.

At the start you will need some high-value item to give your dog as a reward. This can be a favorite treat or it can be a toy.

Start off in a place where there is little or no distraction. Any indoors room is fine. Although, strictly speaking, prior obedience training isn’t needed, you will get off to a faster start if your dog is familiar with the stay command.

Get your dog stay in a particular location. Then, in full sight of him place a treat somewhere. Choose a command term like “seek” or “find it” This term will be your cue to let him know that the “stay” command is over and he is free to get the treat.

It may take a few tries to get him to understand exactly what is expected of him – but he’ll soon get the hang of it.

Once he reliably retrieves the treat you can make it progressively more difficult. You place the treat somewhere he couldn’t see from the stay position.

By slowly increasing the distance he has to go to find the treat, you will eventually have him searching the whole house for his reward and thoroughly enjoying it.

Despite their great sense of smell, dogs still use their eyes a lot. Hiding things out of his line of sight will force him to rely on scent.

Another simple game is to get him to tell you which hand a treat is hidden in.

The ultimate aim of the game is to get him to lightly nudge whichever hand is holding the treat.

To get started, have the treat in one hand and show him both open hands  - then close your hands and put them behind your back.

Select which hand you are going to have the treat in, then move both closed hands away from your body. Use the same training phrase you have selected and wait for him to indicate which hand the treat is in.

If he gets it right, give him the treat. If not show him the correct hand and then start again.

The purpose of this early training is to get the dog to start using his nose instead of his eyes.

Make The Games More Complex

Once the basic skills have been mastered you can make the games more and more difficult. It is an extremely versatile technique with almost no limit to the amount of variations you can think up

If you would like to find out more, here is the webpage of the founders of the sport: K9 Nosework.