Scent hounds have been an instrumental part of hunting for hundreds of years. Hunting with their nose has been a favorite activity among dogs and wouldn’t you love bringing some of that thrill into your Chihuahua’s life?
Sure, he will never be much of a hunter, but that doesn’t stop him from using his nose to find his favorite treats. If the idea rings to you take a look at some of these scent games.
There are many advantages to incorporating scent games in your exercise routine, especially for a small dog like a Chihuahua. You don’t need any conditioning to get started. You don’t need a lot of time to teach your dog how to play and he doesn’t need any physical conditioning. And your dog’s sense of smell doesn’t even diminish with age.
Before anything else a little background on how your Chihuahua’s nose works
Unlike humans, a dog’s sense of smell is very refined and very powerful. This is the first sensory experience dogs rely on. They use it to find their mother’s milk before they have functioning ears or eyes and they keep using it forever.
We don’t know too much about dogs’ noses and why they are so refined, but we suspect they can smell different elements individually instead of smelling everything in a jumble, as humans do.
Another interesting thing is that a dog’s nose size doesn’t really make a difference. It’s just as good if it’s 3 inches wide as if it’s half an inch wide.
How to get started with scent games
Start by giving holding your hands out in front of him while one of your hands is holding a treat. Ask him which hand for the treat and let him sniff. If he sniffs the correct hand praise him and give him the treat. Otherwise just ignore him.
This is probably the easiest exercise anyone could think of but it still works on many levels. He’s using his head to think about which hand is it, and he’s practically hunting. He’s using his nose to find food, one of the most basic needs of any living organism.
Once he’s a master of the basic game above you can add cups and turn it into something you can brag to your friends with. Essentially you’re teaching him the cup game.
Start with 3 cups (make sure they let smell through) and put on a big show while placing a treat under one cup, making sure he can see everything. Now ask him to find it. If he gets it praise him for his genius qualities and give him the treat, otherwise show him again and ask again.
Never tell him he’s bad because he can’t figure it out; it’s just a game after all. After he’s consistently doing the first cup correctly start adding switches. If he becomes confused you’re going too fast, go back to fewer switches and help him succeed.
During the game he should figure out that it’s ok to touch, kick and roll over the cup containing the treat. It’s a game so have fun. When he’s mastered it you can have him beat your friends at the shell game.
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