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It's All in the Nose - Using Treat Scatters for Mental Stimulation

 Written by Mike Purcell, Owner of All Canines, CPDT-KA 

  • Watch our IG video on how to use our treat-giving technique 

Treat scatters are one of my favorite activities with dogs. The sound of their nose working at its peak to find the pieces of Meat Lover Treats scattered throughout the grass is music to my ears. Give it a go next time you are outside. Break off five dime-sized pieces of Saint Rocco’s and toss them around in the grass. Your dog’s nose may go to work immediately. Some other dogs may need a little time to catch a scent.  

The most important thing for you as the owner to do is to not interject. Do you point the treats out to your dog? That is one of my pet peeves. No pun intended. But honestly, let them play the game and stop giving them all of the answers. Give them the chance to use the most impressive sense in their body: their sense of smell. We humans can see the contrast of a treat on the grass or ground, but your dog cannot. It blends in. Many dogs will pick up one or two treats right away. That is because dogs see movement better than they see still objects so they caught the ones bouncing first. Still objects appear blurry to dogs while moving objects are clearer.  

But back to the nose! Let your dog use their brain to find the treats. They are essentially finding needles in a haystack with their nose. And with practice, boy oh boy do dogs become good with their noses. It is important that dogs are given the opportunity to use their nose as it is how they see the world. It is how they gain information. It is how they learn many things. And it is how our dogs tell us that they cannot wait for you to toss a few more pieces of Saint Rocco’s in the grass because they can smell it in your treat pouch. Tossing these treats and saying “Find It” can teach your dog an exciting new game. One where they get to use their brain in ways that it is instinctually meant to be used.  

Treat scatters can also be used to help distract a dog in a high-stress situation. Having worked with a lot of city dogs and dogs in the rescue system, I see many dogs who suffer from high levels of stress. When you are out and about with your dog, it is important to always have a strip or two of your dog’s favorite Saint Rocco’s treat on you. You never know when you might need treats to help you and your dog out of an undesirable situation. Isolated treat scatters can help a lot with reactive dogs. When paired with marker training, we can help a dog create new and positive associations with stressors in the environment, also known as triggers.  

Ultimately, mental stimulation is the most important form of exercise to fulfill your dog’s needs. Every breed and dog within breeds is different. All dogs will require different levels of needs to be filled. As olfactory and predatory animals, your dogs want to search and sniff and hunt down that tasty Saint Rocco’s treat in the grass. This is a fun, enjoyable, and rewarding activity. Toss some treats. Let your dog be a dog. Enjoy quietly as you watch them move back and forth based on the scents they are picking up. Play this game at least once a day if not more because mental stimulation, for so many reasons ,is one of the keys to your dog’s happiness. 

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