Scentwork Starter Guide
A fantastic way to engage your dog's mind and body
ENHANCE YOUR DOG'S OVERALL WELLBEING AND DEEPEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Scentwork engages a dog's powerful sense of smell, providing mental stimulation and promoting relaxation. It builds confidence, enhances focus, and strengthens the bond between you and your dog. Please note that this guide is for hobby scent work at home rather than professional competitions with formal search and indication expectations. We are just here to have fun!
Here is how to get started:Please be mindful that you are just having fun. Your dog cannot possibly get it wrong, there's nothing to get wrong! Whatever they do is great as you guys are having fun together. Keep your sessions short, always feel free to take a step or two back and only progress to the next step when you and your dog are ready.
- Prep the gear: Use the tweezers to remove three scent sticks from the glass jar and place it in the rectangular hide. It's the biggest, so the easiest one to start with. Over time we will be using less scent sticks in a hide, but good to start with the odour being very clear and strong. Keep your hands and the rest of the gear from touching the scent sticks.
- Choose a suitable environment: Start in a quiet, familiar space without distractions. As your dog progresses, you can introduce more challenging environments.
- Introduce the scent to your dog: Pair the Cedarwood scent with treats. Initially you can start by feeding treats right above the hide (it's not hidden yet). Watch your dog so you don't miss the moment where they move their nose to the hide by themselves. If they do, say "YES" in a happy voice and reward right by the hide. Anytime they bring their nose to the hide by themselves you repeat. But don't have any expectations yet, you can still bring treats to the hide yourself to keep pairing.
- Do your first hide, start cueing: hide the scented hide in an easy spot (hardly hidden) without your dog watching and pop a bunch of treats with it, so it's easy to find. Say "SEEK" and let your dog find the hide and treats. Help them out a bit if needed. Use a cheerful tone to make it enjoyable. When they do find it, say "YES" and give some more treats from your hand right by the hide. Always reward right by the hide. Repeat a bunch of these in different spots.
- Keep it happy and positive: Be sure to always praise and reward when your dog sniffs the scent and finds it. You can also use playtime as a reward if your dog would prefer that. Positive reinforcement strengthens the association between the scent and the reward and of course your bond.
- Increase complexity: Gradually make the game more challenging by reducing the amount of treats you hide with the hide until you don't need to hide treats with it at all anymore. Keep sessions short and fun and remember to reward generously every time they find the hide and always reward right by the hide.
- Take it to the next level: Start introducing two hides at a time. A great second one is the round magnetic hide. You can pop just two scent sticks into that one. Over time you can start introducing the micro hide and centrifuge vials with just one scent stick per hide as well. The advantage of the magnetic hides is that you can attach them in harder to reach spaces to keep your dog guessing (well, not really guessing.... with those noses they KNOW pretty quickly...).
- End the session on success: Finish your session with a successful find and then use the tweezers to place all scent sticks back in the glass jar. You can give an "ALL DONE" cue to communicate to your dog that the game is over.
Be patient and observant: Every dog learns at their own pace. Observe your dog's body language – tail wagging, focused sniffing – to gauge their interest and progress. Be patient and celebrate even small achievements.
Regular practice: Consistency is key. Practice scentwork regularly, but keep sessions short and enjoyable. Over time, you can introduce more complex challenges to keep it interesting for your dog.
Safety first: Always ensure the environment is safe for your dog. Remove any hazards or items that your dog shouldn't interact with during the scentwork session.
Indication behaviours: You have probably seen the pros with their sustained, solid indications. It's certainly something fun to work on, but unless you are planning on competing it's also not necessary. Fun is the name of the game. :)