by Katherine Khoo December 09, 2022 6 min read

A dog's sense of smell is incredibly sensitive and powerful. They see the world through their nose. On walks, and at home, our pups constantly take in information with their noses. So, it makes perfect sense that one of the best ways to enrich your dog's life is through his snoot. In this article, we will be sharing several nose work toys that you can try with your pup. These toys can be especially helpful to keep your high-energy pup focused and calm at home. 

Nose Work to a Calmer, Happier Dog

Nose work calms your dog

Nose-based games can be played in small indoor spaces. Though it may seem like little physical energy is exerted, nose-based games can exhaust a dog just as quickly as any hard physical exercise. Thinking uses energy and the more you get your dog to use his nose and brain, the more tired he will be at the end of the play session. In fact, a nose work play session is more stimulating than fetching a ball or tugging at a rope. It beats just going for a walk around the block, and perfect for energetic dogs that are confined indoors.

According to a 2019 study by Charlotte Duranton of Ethodog in France and Alexandra Horowitz of the Dog Cognition Lab in New York, scent work (or nose work) can increase a dog's 'optimistic emotional state. Who doesn’t want their pups to be confident and optimistic? Nose work can build a dog's confidence, improve a dog's ability to work autonomously, and strengthen the dog-human bond.

Nose Work to a Calmer, Happier Dog

Nose work training

Nose work training is not obedience training. The focus is not on teaching your dog manners. The goal is to empower your dog to employ his instinct to forage. Nose work training helps your dog hone in on their natural foraging talents. It allows him to be a dog again, and you encourage and reinforce him for it.

Nose work training gives your dog a sense of purpose and helps to build his critical thinking skills and confidence. Not only does your dog get to take part in an activity that he loves, but it also helps him with confidence building.

If you are thinking of enrolling your pup in some form of nose work training class, here’s a website that you should refer to for more information - NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CANINE SCENT WORK ®. It is important that you take the time to find a certified Nose Work instructor (CNWI). These instructors are trained to help their clients with all types of training goals including confidence building, social enrichment, nose work competitions, and most importantly having fun.  

Nose Work to a Calmer, Happier Dog

How to try nose work at home

Doing nose work training with your dog is almost as simple as basic training. All you need are his favourite treats, some nose work toys, and some patience. Nose work can be taught practically anywhere, to any dog of all ages. Here are several training tips to help you get started.

Keep it fun!

If you really think about it, training time is play time–training should be a fun experience for both you and your dog. Remember to keep your attitude light-hearted and consider this time together a part of the bonding experience.

Choose the right treats

You’ll need something enticing to encourage your dog to search. Food is an excellent motivator for most dogs! Tiny pieces of his favourite food or treats, stuffed into the pockets or folds of a snuffle toy are a simple way to get him started on nose work.

Most paw parents will start off by using treats that their dogs don’t get very often; something that their dogs absolutely adore and will work for it. This can help to keep your dog focused especially if your environment is highly distracting. You know your dog best – choosing one of their favorite rewards will help them focus when learning a new skill.

If you have a picky pooch that is not so easily impressed with regular food or treats, we would suggest getting something that is really strong smelling like this Just Fish Natural Fish Nuggets Treats For Cats & Dogs or something really special like The Barkery Bark Kwa Dehydrated Beef Dog Treats. Cut these treats into smaller pieces to be stuffed into the toy’s pockets.  

Nose Work to a Calmer, Happier Dog

Get nose work toys for your dog

Snuffle toys are a type of dog puzzle toy. They are designed to hide dry food, making it more difficult to eat and encouraging dogs to use their hunting and foraging skills to locate it. Most dogs love a snuffle toy as it allows them to use their powerful sense of smell to hunt out food. The toys come in various shapes and sizes, and most are washable. With your pup aggressively pawing and licking at the toys, get only snuffle toys made from non-toxic, durable materials.

We have selected some of the best nose work toys for your consideration.

  • Furball Collective Squeakie Dog Toy (Bak Zhang)
    This soft plushie Bak Zhang dog toy comes with a squeaker inside to entice and excite your pup to play. Be sure to hide treats of varying sizes inside the Bak Zhang leaves and let your pup sniff it out. A good snuffle toy for beginners.
  • KONG Treat Spiral Ring Dog Toy 
    This treat dispensing dog toy has an unpredictable rolling motion and this unique rolling motion, together with the stuffed treats will captivate your dog’s natural foraging instincts. This toy is sure to keep dogs engaged in healthy, active nose work.
  • Ruffwear Gnawt-a-Rock™ Rubber Treat Dispenser Fetch Dog Toy 
    Highly recommended for large, heavy chewers. Made with durable, non-toxic natural rubber, this treat-dispensing snuffle is irregularly shaped to create an erratic bounce that will excite and entice the dog to play (forage).
  • POOZPET Nosework Snuffle Mat For Dogs (7-12 Food Guide)
    This nose work dog toy has various styles of pockets (with or without zippers on the mat) designed to hide food to help dogs strengthen the sense of smell, develop IQ, release excess energy, explore the fun, kill time, and correct bad eating habits
  • Studio Ollie Yummy Cheeseburger Nose Work Toy
    This snuffle toy has 2 deep & wide pockets for treats. The wider pockets make it easier for your pups to retrieve the hidden yummies, and this can be a good thing for first timer playing with nose work toys. The cheeseburger will also crinkle and squeak when your pup sinks his teeth into it, creating excitement and enticing your dog to continue playing.
  • Studio Ollie Juicy Watermelon Nose Work Toy
    This watermelon snuffle toy comes with 5 hidden pockets for treats and more pockets equal more hidden treats! An excellent choice for dogs that are food motivated.

Nose Work to a Calmer, Happier Dog

Play nose work game with your dog

Hiding treats around the room and getting your dog to seek them out is an excellent indoor nose work game that you can play with your dog regularly. When starting out with nose work, it is highly recommended to stay indoors since it’s a lot less distracting. You’ll also need to teach your dog basic commands like “stay” and “find it”. He’ll need to stay at a given location while you go place bits of his favourite treats or toys at the other end of the room. Use “find it” to begin the nose work game!

Start simple and after a few repetitions, he’ll know what you’re expecting him to do. Initially, keep the game by confining it within a room. As your dog becomes more familiar with the game, you can step it up a notch and start expanding the game area to different rooms. Some dogs might get a little frustrated at first if they’re not able to find the treat immediately. You can encourage him when he’s close to the treat. Point it out to him if he’s having trouble. The idea is to keep things light and fun. Get him excited and encourage him to continue playing when he may struggle to find the treat. Make sure you praise your dog when he finds it.

As your dog becomes more adept at sniffing things out you can up the challenge. Place the treats in different rooms, on chairs, sofas, or even under rugs– anywhere he’s not going to see them. Now, he’ll have to fully rely on his nose to seek out these delicious nuggets!

Nose Work to a Calmer, Happier Dog

Nose work is a great way to entertain a dog and provide him with mental stimulation. Nose work toys and games have been shown to help keep dogs calm and they’re suitable for dogs of all ages. You may choose to send your pup to a professional nose work training class, but nose work can be taught at home too with minimal equipment. So, why not give it a go? You may end up with a calmer, healthier, and more confident dog.








Katherine Khoo
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.

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