Ten minutes of intensive sniffing can be the equivalent of an hour’s walk! 

It’s quite amazing how well dogs can smell. When we’re cooking a stew, we smell the lovely aromas of the veggies and the meat. A dog’s nose is so good that it can smell all the ingredients – the garlic, pepper, onion, thyme, carrots, peas and the meat. It is said that dogs can smell between 1000 and 10,000 times better than we can. It’s no wonder, then, that dogs have created a niche in the animal kingdom to work closely with humans, from detecting missing people to sniffing out cancer or diabetes in people. 

Most of the dog’s brain is dedicated to sniffing. Humans have ±5,000,000 scenting receptors whereas dogs have ±225,000,000. The Bloodhound is said to be the superior sniffer of all dogs, with Beagles and German Shepherds following close behind. A controlled experiment was conducted a few years back where a coin was touched by a person and was then placed on the roof at an airport. Two weeks later they retrieved the coin and the dog could identify the coin that this person had touched!


Did you know that ten minutes of intensive sniffing can be the equivalent of an hour’s walk? Scenting is considered mental stimulation and enriches a dog’s life. The benefits also include building confidence in shy or fearful dogs. You can do scenting exercises anywhere and it builds a stronger bond between you and your dog. It’s a great game to play if it’s been cold or raining and can help prevent behavioural problems by providing much-needed enrichment.

So, if it’s been raining or you’ve been too busy with things at work or home and you haven’t had time to take your dog for a walk, you can tire out your pooch just by playing some scenting games. 

Some ideas include scattering the dog’s food around the garden. This allows your dog to “forage” for his food, which is a natural outlet for him. Or place some pellets under cones around the garden and have your dog “find” the goodies. Hide some treats around the garden but don’t bury them or else you might encourage digging in areas you might not want your dog to dig. Or take your dog for scent training. Many dog schools offer this, and by taking your dog to a dog school you also gain the benefit of continued socialisation. 

Children usually love to play with their dogs by running around or throwing a ball, which encourages excitability in the dog. By teaching your children the scenting game, it helps to calm things down and is a structured game they can play with their dogs. Remember, kids must always be supervised with dogs, not matter how much you trust your dog.


Scenting serves to keep dogs busy while they are using their natural instincts. Remember to introduce the new games so that your dog gets the idea and then you can become more creative. Should you have more than one dog, it’s a good idea to do this one dog at a time.

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