How To Teach Scent Games

Scent Games like Find It  are great for scent hounds, rainy days, dogs that are easily bored and just to have fun with your dog and kids!  It can even be used for dogs with limited mobility or on restricted activity levels by keeping them inside to play.

 What you need

  • Lots of tiny pieces of a valuable food item. Think a stinky cheese, garlicky dehydrated hot dogs or kibble, etc. (Be careful with your dog’s diet and sensitive tummies)

    • A hungry dog! It’s an added benefit of having a very food motivated dog. If your dog is not food motivated – there are things you can do to help achieve food drive. (We will add some information to our blog soon on this topic)

  • 5 small cardboard boxes similar shape and size

  • 10-15 minutes of play time

  • Enthusiasm from you -- your dog has more fun when you have fun

  • A long line when you start working outside if you don’t have a fence or if you have dog easily distracted.

  • It’s even better if your dog with hold a stay command while you hide the scent as you advance.

How to Begin: (keep it simple and easy.   Let your dog have success!)

  • Take one of the boxes and cut a small a couple of small slits in the bottom (not enough that the treats fall out, but enough that scent is easily detected.

  • Put a couple of treat in the box, but it a few feet in front of your dog and say “find it”. He rewards himself with the treat! Praise with “good find it” and enthusiasm!

    • Optional but recommended: We also like to use a clicker to mark the moment he has found the right scent... because as the treat is no longer in the box, but from you, you'll still need a way to mark accuracy, while waits for the treat/reward. Over time, no markers will be given and it will be up to him to convince you he found the right scent.

  • After a couple of reps, turn the box up side down with the treat underneath. Say “find it”. Again, he will self-reward with the treat. ! Praise with “good find it” and enthusiasm!

  • Move the bowl further away for a few reps

  • Add 2 more bowls – being careful NOT to put treats in the two new boxes, otherwise, they will all be scented. Reward and Praise!


Advancements when your dog is ready: (don’t rush – some dogs master in minutes and others it may take a few days)


  • Have the dog out of sight, while you setup the boxes.

  • Add more boxes and scatter them around the house or yard. (increase the range in small intervals – in other words don’t go from the living room to a ½ acre yard distance

  • Put the box with the scent inside a different object

  • Eliminate the boxes and hide the treats in different objects or in the yard!

Really Advanced Find It

  • Add a unique scent like Cinnamon or Clove Oil on cottonball in a clean soup can. Make it present with every “find” – that is wherever you hide the treat, put the can with the new scent in it.

  • After a # of reps – have only the can with scent in it and no treat. We want the dog to actively look for his reward – he might paw the object or ground, look to you for it, or even bark. Pay close attention to the cue your dog gives on their find so you can reward and build that cue clearly.

  • Rewards at this stage may be a favorite toy.

If you have multiple dogs, play with one at a time to teach and build enthusiasm for the game.   And then, have one stay while the other works.

Do not play with multiple dogs who are resource guarders!


Create many easy wins for your dog before going to the next level of advancement.   As your dog progresses, go back to some easy peasy successes and simple finds.   Dog’s get very discouraged when the fail the game too many times!  Don't let that happen!


gamesDana Brigman