Dogs housed in animal centres are significantly influenced by their olfactory environment. You can help enhance this environment by simply introducing positive opportunities for the dog to use its olfactory sense.

Introducing scents to the environment can:
  • Elicit calming effects on the dog
  • Create positive perception of dog behaviour and will increase the dog’s adoptability
  • Provide an enriching activity or experience for the dog
  • Enhance normal curiosity and investigative behaviours
Scent of the Day

Find a printable version of Scent of the Day.

The following has been adapted from material on the ASPCApro website.

When incorporating this enrichment activity, it’s as easy as introducing a different scent as part of your daily kennel cleaning. You can include the bottle or shaker of the scent of the day on the cart with your kennel cleaning supplies.

You can also use a designated enrichment cart or container such as a tote or plastic carryall that contains the various enrichment items for the kennels as well as a copy of your enrichment schedule.

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Check out warehouse stores to obtain extracts and spices in bulk sizes.

stop sign iconYou can also try aromatherapy extracts and oils, but be sure to research these carefully before using them in the animal centre. Some aromatherapy substances are irritants or even toxic to animals (although more likely to adversely affect cats than dogs).

See Smell/Olfactory for Stress Reduction for scents used to elicit calming behaviour.


  • Spray bottles and containers with shaker tops
  • Cooking extracts, such as vanilla, peppermint, almond, coconut, etc.
  • Sweet spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, cardamom

What to Do:

  1. Prepare the scents
  2. Assemble as many spray bottles as you have liquid extracts.
  3. Fill each bottle nearly full with water, and then add a small amount of extract, and mix. Remember that dogs have a keen sense of smell, so the concentration of extract can be very small.
  4. If you have dry spices, transfer each to a container with a shaker top.
  5. In each kennel, after cleaning, lightly spray a wall, spot on the floor, or in a corner with the diluted extract. If the scent of the day is a dry spice, sprinkle very small amounts on bedding or toys.

If you find that some scents are not well received, remove them from the rotation, and try something else. If individual dogs do not interact with certain scents, or display aversion toward them, you can record this on the enrichment schedule.


Nose Work Games
The following information has been adapted from material on the Center for Shelter Dogs website.
Nose work games:
  • Are a great form of enrichment for dogs that are not motivated to play retrieve, tug, or chase games
  • Are an excellent form of physical, mental and olfactory stimulation for all dogs
  • Allow dogs to expend energy
Find It Game

The following information has been adapted from material on the Center for Shelter Dogs website.

Find It games can be done with very little interaction with the dog. This makes them very compatible for quality enrichment within the dog’s enclosure. Examples of this include, but are not limited to, a stuffed KONG® or a muffin pan with a treat under a tennis ball in each cup.

To make these games even more interactive for those dogs that enjoy them, take the dog to a separate room, hide the food, and then help him search it out.

Here are some easy examples:

  • Seek and Destroy: hide the food in an empty box
  • Treasure Hunt: make a trail of treats for the dog to follow
  • Shell Game: hide treats under paper cups or small bowls

Find a printable version of Find It Game


  • Food dispensing toy (KONG®) or a small cardboard box containing a tasty and easily accessible treat
  • Muffin pan with a treat under a tennis ball in each cup

What to Do:

  1. Tether the dog to a sturdy object, or ask to sit and stay.
  2. Show the dog the toy/box/muffin tin. Allow the dog to sniff it.
  3. Place the object containing treat on the ground approximately 5 feet from the dog.
  4. Go back to the dog and say ‘Find it!’
  5. When the dog gets to the object, praise, and allow the dog to eat the treat.
  6. Repeat 5 times, gradually moving the object further from the dog, always keeping it within the dog’s sight.
  7. On the sixth time, do NOT put a treat in the object. Tell the dog to ‘find it’ and when the dog arrives at the object, praise and give a treat from your hand.
  8. Repeat 4 times.   Note: If the dog’s motivation decreases once a treat is no longer present, place a treat in the object 50% of the time.
  9. End the session.
  10. Repeat items #1-9 for the second session.
  11. In the third session, repeat items 1-9, but start hiding the toy in a fairly easy to find location.
  12. In the fourth and subsequent sessions, the toy should never have a treat in it. The reward will always come from you.
  13. During this and subsequent sessions, (ideally) there should be a small partition or barrier between you and the dog so that the dog is blocked from seeing where you hide it, and must use its sense of smell to find the toy.
  14. As the dog gets better and better at the game, hide the toy in more difficult to find locations and play the game in different locations (e.g. a larger room, a play yard, etc).
Play Yard
Exercise yards give dogs and puppies an opportunity to engage their sense of smell by sniffing and tracking scents. There are several other benefits to exercise yards. They allow dogs to have:
  • Access to a novel experience outside of their primary kennel, with or without human interaction
  • Much-needed aerobic exercise and therefore a more relaxed state while in their kennel.  This is particularly beneficial for those that are challenged by confinement
  • The opportunity to express normal behaviours, such as running, digging, and playing
  • Outdoor environmental stimulation of all five of their senses, which is very enriching



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