Unleashing the Power of Nose Work for Dogs

When it comes to engaging our canine companions in activities that tap into their natural instincts, nose work stands out as a remarkable sport. 

Dogs possess an incredible sense of smell, and participating in nose work allows them to embrace their innate abilities while having a great time. Let’s explore the captivating world of nose work and delve into the reasons why it’s an exceptional sport for dogs



Tapping Into Their Natural Instincts

Dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell, far superior to that of humans. They possess over 300 million olfactory receptors, enabling them to detect scents with remarkable precision. Nose work harnesses this natural talent by channeling their instinctive desire to explore, search, and discover. Engaging in this sport allows dogs to utilize their keen sense of smell, providing them with a fulfilling and mentally stimulating experience.


Mental and Physical Exercise

Nose work is an excellent way to provide dogs with both mental and physical exercise. As they navigate through different scent detection challenges, their minds are actively engaged in problem-solving and decision-making. The mental stimulation offered by nose work can help alleviate boredom and prevent destructive behaviors often associated with under-stimulated dogs. Additionally, the physical aspect of searching and maneuvering through various environments helps keep dogs physically fit and agile.


Strengthening Your Bond

Participating in nose work can deepen the bond between a dog and their handler. The sport relies heavily on teamwork, communication, and trust. Handlers learn to read their dog’s body language, signals, and reactions, which enhances their understanding of one another. The collaboration involved in nose work fosters a sense of partnership and strengthens the relationship, creating a deeper level of trust and companionship.


Fun for Everyone!

One of the greatest aspects of nose work is its inclusivity. Dogs of all ages, breeds, and sizes can participate in this sport. Whether you have a high-energy working dog or a small companion breed, nose work can be tailored to accommodate their specific needs and abilities. It’s a fantastic outlet for dogs who may not excel in other sports, providing them with a chance to shine and showcase their unique talents. 


Confidence Boosting

Engaging in nose work can significantly boost a dog’s confidence. As they successfully locate hidden scents and overcome various challenges, they gain a sense of accomplishment. This newfound confidence can extend beyond the sport itself, positively influencing their behavior in other areas of life. Nervous or timid dogs often blossom through nose work, discovering their capabilities and embracing new experiences with enthusiasm. 


Stress Relief and Regulation

Dogs experience stress, just like humans do. Nose work can be an effective stress reliever for dogs, as it allows them to focus on a specific task, diverting their attention away from anxieties and worries. Engaging in scent detection activates the dog’s natural relaxation response, promoting a sense of calmness and tranquility. Additionally, the mental stimulation provided by nose work can help alleviate anxiety-related behaviors, making it a valuable tool for dogs prone to stress.




Nose work offers dogs a captivating and rewarding sport that taps into their exceptional olfactory abilities. It provides mental and physical exercise, strengthens the bond between dogs and their handlers, boosts confidence, and serves as an inclusive activity for all breeds. By engaging in nose work, dogs get to play a fulfilling and stimulating game with their person which enhances their overall well-being and happiness. So, why not unleash your dog’s true potential and embark on an exciting nose work journey together?


Why Parkour?


If you’re familiar with Busy Dog on any level, you know that we’re hugely passionate about dog parkour! Have you ever wondered why or what it’s all about?

What is Dog Parkour? 

Dog parkour is often referred to as “urban agility.” The sport is composed of a number of skills that can be trained anywhere without any equipment. There are 6 base behaviors (and many others beyond!): 4 feet on, 2 feet on, under, through, in, and balance. These skills are then turned to nature, where you and your dog are challenged to find a variety of obstacles of different sizes, textures, and stability, to play parkour on! 

Red merle border collie stands on a concrete wall in a grassy field.

Benefit #1: Confidence Building

For many dogs, it will be scary at first to put their front paws on a slippery rock, or to crawl under a tree branch. Over time, practicing dog parkour will help your dog learn to trust your judgement, push their bodies in new ways, and become confident in themselves and their abilities.  Very quickly, the confidence that your dog builds in parkour will then transfer to other aspects of their life.

Benefit #2: Relationship Strengthening

As you and your dog spend time training together, your bond will strengthen. If you help your dog safely learn how to have fun in different ways, your dog will build value in the time you spend together. 

Benefit #3: Body Awareness & Conditioning (Safe for all Ages)

Does your dog act like they aren’t even aware of their back legs? This is common in young dogs. Dog parkour will increase your dog’s agility and body awareness. It also can help older dogs maintain some strength as they age.

Benefit #4: Enrichment (More Than Just a Walk!)

More often than not, simply just taking your dog for a walk isn’t enough. In addition to physical exercise, dogs also need mental exercise and enrichment! Dog parkour is an easy activity to add to the walks you’re already going on. Instead of rushing your dog pass a rock, stop and think about what your dog could do with that rock. Can they put feet on it? Circle it? Jump from one to the other?


Benefit #5: Optional Titling

To put it plainly, dog parkour is cool. Why wouldn’t you want to show off? Through the International Dog Parkour Association, you and your dog can earn awards. There are numerous levels, and if your dog prefers one specific behavior, you can earn a specialty title too!

Mackenzie Holmes of Busy Dog Training is a certified instructor and evaluator and can award you your training and novice level  titles.

A black dog in a turquoise harness sits in a cardboard box and faces the camera.

How to Get Started!

We offer both online and in person dog parkour classes! We also meet up once a week in a new place in the Madison area to practice as a group. Come check it out!

Visit the International Dog Parkour Association website for more in depth detail about the sport.

Busy Dog Trainer

Lindsey Hazlett


Non-Food Enrichment Activities

Sometimes it isn’t an option to include food in enrichment. This can be the case for dogs on strict diets, or for dogs that aren’t overly food-motivated or hungry. In these instances, try one of these 10 enrichment activities around the house or outdoors. 

Hide & Seek

Dogs can be like children in that they thrive on the simple fun pleasures of life. Taking time to play hide and seek with your canine companion can nurture this need and offer an opportunity to bond. 

Begin by placing your dog in a “stay.” Go and find a simple place to hide in the room. Release your dog! Most dogs will gleefully run to you to find out what you’re doing. Over time, a cue like “find me” can be added, and the difficulty of hiding places may increase.

Decompression Walks

Decompression walks, or calm walks with endless opportunities to sniff, are grounding and offer time for a dog to do what a dog does best– sniff everything. Consider putting a harness on your dog and attach her to a long line if the area is safe. Give her space to roam where she pleases.



DIY Obstacle Course

Use everyday objects to create a fun and interactive course. Broomsticks can be propped up for jumps, tunnels can be made from cardboard boxes, and hula hoops can serve as tire jumps. Get creative! 

Cardboard Box

Something as simple as a cardboard box can provide different forms of fun depending on your dog’s preferences. Some dogs will tear it apart. Others may chew on it and shake pieces around in his mouth. It doesn’t matter what your dog does (as long as it is safe). The box is his to create his own party with!



A black dog in a turquoise harness sits in a cardboard box and faces the camera.

Dog-Friendly Stores & Parks

Taking your dog out to a local pet-friendly place offers her a chance to explore new smells, hear new sounds, see new sights, and perhaps even meet new people or animals! New places can be exhilarating for a dog with a standard routine. 

Yoga Balls 

For the herding dogs, or any dog that loves balls, toss a big ball out into the yard and see what your dog does. Some will herd the ball, others will nose it along with their snouts, and some might use it to play soccer with you! They also make egg-shaped balls for added fun and challenge.



Ball Pits

Take any type of ball, and fill a cardboard box, kiddie pool, or any sort of container, and give your dog a chance to romp around and play. 

Activity Cube

The customization options for this one are limitless! Start with some PVC pipes and connectors, and build a square or rectangle large enough to have your dog run freely under and around it. 

Dangle plush toys, tug toys, fun (and safe) recyclables like water bottles, or anything your dog finds fun, from the top rung of the activity square. The more the variety, the better!



Pools & Lakes

For any water-loving dog, something as simple as a small area of water can provide excitement. Stay on the look out for creeks and dog-friendly beaches, or fill a kiddie pool up at home. Be ready for splashing, swimming, jumping, and playing. Your dog may also like a sprinkler or a hose being sprayed. 

Dig Boxes

Dig boxes for your dog can be made from any outdoor container large enough to contain space for your dog to dig and play. It’s up to you whether you fill it with dirt, sand, or anything else! Encourage your dog to use the space by shallowly burying a favorite toy while your dog is watching. Diggers like hounds and terriers will love this space!



   By Lindsey Hazlett

 Busy Dog Trainer

DIY Food Puzzle Toys

by Lindsey Hazlett


Whether it be full meals or just for treats, providing puzzle opportunities for your dog to complete keeps their mind occupied and their brain enriched, enabling them to use their instincts and feed their senses. There are dozens and dozens of food puzzles available for purchase, but there are also endless DIY on-a-whim options made from everyday items. Give one of these a try this week (and be sure to supervise)!



Toilet Paper Tubes

Collect all of your empty toilet paper rolls instead of just tossing them into the trash! There are several ways to turn these into a game. Depending on your dog’s familiarity with food puzzles, you can just set treats or kibble inside the tubes, and let your dog knock the food out. If they catch on quickly, put the toilet paper tubes upright in a small box, and place kibble in each one. This will challenge your dog to either stick his snout in each tube, or remove each one from the box in order to get a treat. For an expert level, or for the excitable destroyer, push in the ends of each tube, giving the dog an opportunity to rip open the tubes in order to find the food. 


Egg Carton

This is another easy idea for enrichment! Place a treat or piece of kibble into each divot of the carton. If your dog finds this too easy, you can place items on top of the divots so she must move each item before getting the food reward. As she gets the hang of the puzzle, you can also close the carton and allow her to either open it with her snout or tear it open. This is another great outlet for the destroyers! If you don’t eat eggs or don’t have a carton handy, substitute a muffin tin and place tennis balls on each space for added difficulty. 


Plastic Water Bottle

With this puzzle, place a handful of kibble or treats into an empty plastic water bottle. Leave the cap off and let your dog roll it around until all the treats fall out. Easy peasy fun with plenty of fun crinkling! 


Peanut Butter Jar

Have you gotten as much as you can from the jar? Let your pup get it ready for the recycling bin by letting him lick it clean. Added bonus if you toss in some treats or kibble to stick to the peanut butter on the sides! As with all enrichment, make sure to supervise, and consider taking this messy treat outdoors! 


Yogurt Cups

Similar to the peanut butter jar, these are ideal for the dogs with shorter snouts. For added difficulty, think about lining them up on a string, so they spin and rotate while your dog licks out the leftover goodies! 



Do you have a towel you’re about to throw in the wash? Take a moment to roll it up with some treats and give your dog a chance to dig, sniff, snuffle, and unroll it! The ways to wrap up the treats are endless! Switch it up each time! 



Cardboard Box

This one is a free-for-all! Toss in some treats, toys, bags, and anything else you can find. Let your dog go nuts with the box and snuffle out treats, remove items from the box, and perhaps even rip apart the box. For the star puzzlers, add smaller boxes within the box with treats in those as well! 




There are so many ways to let your dog play with an envelope and treats! For the novice, add a couple of treats to an envelope and place it, unsealed, on the floor. For the experienced puzzle-solver, seal the envelopes partially or fully and place them on the ground. For an Extreme Advanced Challenge, hole punch the top of a treat-stuffed sealed envelope, and line a few on a string. Suspend the stringed envelopes to make a mini clothesline! Your dog gets to tear the envelope off the string, rip the envelope open, and then sniff out and grab the treats! 



Paper Cups

Take a few identical cups and sit with them and your dog. Place a piece of kibble under one cup, and move them all around. Let your dog sniff out the cup with the treat underneath, and play again! This game provides an opportunity for you to participate in the food puzzle. 



The Lawn!

When the weather is nice, scatter some treats or kibble across the lawn. Provide time for your dog to search, sniff, and snuffle out the food while also enjoying some time outside. This is a great game for hounds and dogs who love to use their nose!