One third of a dog’s brain is dedicated to smell. Not only that, but our dogs ‘taste’ smell as well as smell it. That is because dogs have a vomeronasal organ which means that as they inhale, some of that air goes into their mouth. In order to properly sniff, dogs need to close their mouth and you should also hear their snuffling as they take in the scent.
Smells provide a huge amount of information to a dog. Encouraging your dog to sniff, and giving them time to sniff is an important activity for your dog on a walk.
Photo courtesy of Ainsley Miller
Building scentwork into your dog’s daily activities is mentally stimulating and tiring. You can do this as simply as scatterfeeding (throwing food on floor, in the garden) or using a snuffle mat for them to sniff and eat their breakfast and/or dinner. You can hide food or toys around your garden or house for your dog to hunt out.
To learn more about scentwork there are 2 organisations that train trainers to deliver this activity.
TD Scentwork UK is run by Pam McKinnon. Previously working for HM Customs and Excise as a drug detector handler, Pam has taken her work and adapted it to make it accessible for all breeds and handlers. This style ensures that the handler is an integral part of the process, building your relationship with your dog. They offer workshops for you to attend and enjoy and scentwork days to put your skills to the test. Further information can be found via the below link.
Scentwork UK also has a network of trainers and offers trials for those that want to compete and levels to pass and progress through.