How to incorporate scent work into playtime

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Sniff out some impulse control - Your Dog contributor Tony Cruse explains the game of "chuck the cheese"

“‘Chuck the cheese’ incorporates scent work, which is an innate behaviour — dogs love sniffing — and there’s the treat element too. It’s enjoyable for the owner to see their dog having fun; it teaches the dog impulse control, and it can build a dog’s confidence.  

“The game is best played in long grass, or grass where the dog can’t actually see the cheese, so he has to use his nose. It starts off with the owner just dropping the food onto the ground right in front of the dog, and letting him find it.

“Next, the owner throws the cheese about a foot in front of the dog, and lets him locate it; nice and simple, and fun for the dog. Then you start building a bit of control, so you hold the dog’s collar or harness, and throw the food out about a foot. The owner keeps hold of the harness, and is looking for a little bit of relaxation from the dog. At that point, the owner throws their arm out, like they’re throwing the cheese again, and says ‘Good!’ The arm gesture is basically a cue to the dog: ‘You’re free to go find it.’

“The owner can then start throwing the cheese a little bit further, and can wait a bit longer, looking for eye contact. When the dog looks at them, the owner says: ‘Good!’ and throws their arm out. 

“The benefit of the eye contact is that the dog will check in with their owner whenever they see something they want — like a squirrel, or another dog, or a cat. The glance to the owner is a sort of: ‘Can I?’

“You can then start adding other exercises in, like down, sit, or even stepping away and calling the dog to you, before they can go to get the treat.”