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Training & Behavior

Scent Work and Puzzle Games for the Win!

March 06, 2023 - 3 minute read by Lori Carscadden

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What's better than handing your pet a snack and it's all over once they give a quick gulp? Helping them savor the moment, while providing some healthy mental stimulation as well.

By adding food puzzles and games to their snack routine, your pup can use several of their five senses simultaneously – making for a more enriching and well-rounded experience. Think crossword puzzles and/or Candy Crush for canines!

Scent work allows your dog to do what they love best – sniffing! This gives the opportunity for your dog to use their strongest natural sense in a fun way that also helps alleviate boredom.

  • Place some strong scents on a washcloth and tuck under an upside down plastic cup/container in the house or yard for your dog to find. Some popular essential oil scents (even just one drop) are peppermint oil, lavender oil, chamomile, cinnamon, and lemon.

  • You can also try some strong scents from a hunting store such as deer scent, fox scent, rabbit scent, etc. Place one drop on a washcloth, then rub back and forth to spread it around. Hide the washcloth and see how finding this surely brightens your dog's day!

  • You can purchase a multitude of treat puzzles, snuffle mats, and other food-motivated games online or at your neighborhood pet shop, or make some cost effective DIY options as well.

  • Place strong scented food items inside paper towel or toilet paper rolls, then fold the side flaps down. This will provide an at-home instant puzzle to solve! Peanut butter (no xylitol) is a good adhesive to keep the flaps in place. This tube puzzle will assist in your dog's natural instinct to chew and shred while providing an appropriate place to do so. And let's face it, your household will have an endless supply of 'tubes' as long as you keep using paper towels and toilet paper. If you find that your dog is thoroughly enjoying this, you can graduate to other thin cardboard items (known as paperboard) with flaps as well, such as cereal boxes, tissue boxes, oatmeal boxes, etc. Just make sure there is no waxy coating.

And of course, filled with high value treats! **Spoiler Alert: Old, crusty biscuits are not considered high value.

Think Dr. Harvey's Rabbit Bites, Dr. Harvey's Chicken Hearts, or Dr. Harvey's Salmon Bites.

Hiding such high quality, high value tidbits will motivate your dog to seek them out. Single ingredient bites of deliciousness that will get your pupper's neurons firing on all pistons.

By providing these stimulating activities, coupled with Dr. Harvey's treats, you are doing the best thing for your pet's overall life experience.

A group of birds in a garden

Bonus feature: these strategies can be enjoyed together as interactive fun, or given as self-entertainment when you leave the house - so 'home alone' can now have a positive association. What a great (yet simple) way to help your dog live their best Doggy Life....

Not just a one-bite wonder, one and done. Your dog has the intelligence capacity for so much more!