What is Nosework for dogs? Benefits and methods - WAGSUP

What is Nosework for dogs? Benefits and methods

Nosework for dogs, what does it mean?

Humans see and feel the world with their eyes. 70% of human senses rely on sight, while dogs rely more than 50% on smell. For dogs, what is as important as the human’s eyes is the sense of smell. So even dogs who cannot see or hear, they can still perform some normal behavior because of their sense of smell. Dogs can get a lot of information by smelling things.

Your dog’s brain is about a tenth the size of a human’s brain. However, the part of the brain that controls odor (the olfactory bulb) is more than 40 times larger than that of humans. You can see how important the sense of smell is to your dog. In other words, nosework is an important training that helps brain activity through smell.

Nosework for dogs is a training method that reflects this characteristic of dogs where we let the dogs find their favourite snacks or treats using their nose.

In the case of dogs living at home, this natural sense of smell cannot be fully exerted. It’s because dogs living with humans have food prepared by humans without having to search for food with their sense of smell. Nosework is a training that provides an opportunity to use your dog’s instinctive sense of smell.

This training method was created in 2006 by 3 trainers working in K9 in California, USA to improve the detection ability of police dogs.

Even though your dog is not a detection dog, nosework is a method for your dog to enjoy very much.

The effect of nosework

[Development of confidence, concentration, and memory]

When a dog engages in nosework, he uses his sense of smell to the maximum and gains confidence by being praised when he finds the treat successfully. Memory and concentration of a dog develops by remembering the smell until he finds a snack. This training is known to be very effective for a timid dog. For this reason, animal shelters often have nosework training hours.

Strengthening the bond between the owner and the dog

Nosework is a game played by both the dog and the owner. The owner has to let the dog smell the snack and hide it. The owner should also participate in a series of rejoicing and praising together when the dog finds a hidden snack. Dogs develop a bond with their owners in this fun process of play.

Cultivation of Socializing

Nosework is also known to be effective in developing socialization skills for dogs. Dogs who are not confident or who are afraid of new stimuli tend to be aggressive towards other animals or people. Nosework training increases your dog’s self confidence and helps release enough energy, making the dog less sensitive to new stimuli.


Now, how to train & play with nosework

Paper Nosework

The easiest way to do nosework indoors is “tearing up the papers”. Hide snacks inside the papers and crumple them. This way, your dog can eliminate 3 elements of : biting, tearing, and eating.

  1. Cut multiple sheets of paper into palm size.
  2. Use training treats or small size treats on the paper and fold them.
  3. Spread them on to the floor where your dog can easily access them. If your dog is an expert at paper nosework, increase the difficulty by hiding them under the couch, behind the plant pot, under the carpet and etc.

** If your dog swallows paper, give your dog several nosework papers at the same time! **

Box Nosework

  1. Before using the boxes, try nosework using paper cups (put treats in the paper cups).
  2. If your dog succeeds in finding the treats in the paper cups, now you can hide treats in a small box this time.
  3. If your dog succeeds in finding the treats in the box, increase the number of boxes. 

Nosework Toys

The third method you can do indoors is to use a toy that can hide treats inside. These nosework interactive toys or balls will relieve stress and provide fun to your dog. This playing & training is very important for dogs who are very curious, or nervous or/and anxious, dogs that show signs of separation anxiety when separated from their owners, dogs that spend a lot of time alone, and picky eaters.


Here are some of nosework-able toys that we recommend at WAGSUP

[ Nina Ottosson Casino Puzzle Game | Outward Hound ]

This casino puzzle game can be used for all size dogs. 


[ Golden Goose Nosework Toy (green) | Sniff ]

This toy has crinkle paper and a squeaker inside. When you hide treats inside its eggs, it’ll be more attractive and fun for your dogs. Golden Goose can be used for small dogs or dogs that play gentle with their toys as it’s made with 100% cotton.


[ Paws Up Pineapple | P.L.A.Y ]

As this pineapple toy has a double layer exterior, it’s more durable than Goose Nosework Toy. This toy also has crinkle and squeakers. It can be used for all size dogs.


[ My Lunch Box Nosework Playbook | Biteme ]

This specially made nosework playbook has pockets for treats. However, there’s a plastic stopper attached so supervision while playing is recommended. This can be used for small and medium dogs. *It’ll be available at WAGSUP in May 2021.


Precautions before nosework

  1. It’s recommended to take away toys for nosework after your dog is done playing. This is because not only can your dog’s interest be diminished, but your dog can also try to find treats when there isn’t one.
  2. It’s better to reduce the amount of meals as much as snacks fed with playing nosework. Or, instead of treats, you can use kibbles for nosework.
  3. Nosework toys are often damaged, but don’t be upset because it means your dog played hard and enjoyed it. Consider nosework toys as consumable items and it’s recommended to replace it in case of damage.
  4. Nosework assists olfactory activities. However, it can’t replace all activities such as walking. The best way is to do both for your dogs: take walks and play nosework.