5 Nose Games German Shepherds And Owners Should Not Miss Out On


Boredom is a big problem in the dog world. When you have a German shepherd, which likes to keep busy with a job, nose games can keep them preoccupied for quite some time.

If you’re just starting out with nose games for your GSD, these five variations will be a great starting point. In case you get inspired by this article and figure out a game of your own, do share it with us!

1. Food Dispensing Toys

Food Dispensing Toys

This one is first for a simple reason – people who spend a lot of time out of their home might not have the luxury of long play sessions. You can leave these toys at home and, depending on how apt at destroying them your GSD is, create some fun for it.

Kong makes tasty and durable toys that will keep your dog’s nose engaged for hours. If the toy survives for that long, that is. Other options that fall into this category are puzzle feeders or snuffle mats.

Not only are they fun to sniff, chew, and paw at, but fast eaters can benefit from them. Dogs that eat too much too fast are at risk of developing bloat or GDV, according to AERCMN. Slowing down the eating process reduces the risk by a fair amount.

2. Free-Roam Nose Game

Perhaps one of the most fun activities for a German shepherd is going on outdoor adventures. Say you have some nice woods or mountain trails nearby. Get your GSD and have a walk or run there.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks says that dogs have larger olfactory membranes in the nose, which helps them rely on their nose much more than humans. Going to new places means a whole set of new smells to explore.

It is important to keep an eye on your dog, since it can run off into the distance tracking scents or chasing other animals. 

3. Scent Trails

German shepherd puppy sniffs

Any smell that does not irritate your dog can be used to create scent trails both indoors and outdoors. Tapping into your dog’s natural tracking instinct will get the nose working immediately.

There are two ways to create scent trails. One is using treats and hiding them around the house while your German shepherd waits patiently in another room (hopefully). Once you hide it, encourage your dog to follow the scent trail.

The second way is using a cotton ball with a drop of essential oil to infuse it with the scent. Be sure to use a scent that your dog is not allergic or sensitive to. You can make this nose game less or more difficult by using less oil, hiding it somewhere easier to find, or vice-versa.

According to the University of Adelaide, a dog’s nose can smell beings or objects as far as 12.5 miles away [1]. This goes for perfect conditions, but even a kilometer away is a big distance. Don’t underestimate your GSD when playing scent trails!

4. Hide And Seek (With The Nose)

While you can use treats or toys for hide and seek, the best way to do this is by hiding yourself from your dog. As kids, we all played the game and got a lot of joy from it. Your GSD ought to like it.

Try keeping the dog in another room, or have a member of your family keep their attention while you hide. Once you are well-hidden, your human helper should give a “search” or “find” command. The last step is to be overwhelmed with your GSD’s joy of finally finding you.

You will be surprised at how quickly they’ll learn what the word means. Difficulty can be decreased or increased by choosing easier or harder hiding spots. Just make sure you don’t get lost.

5. Handy Treats

Nose games that include direct interaction with owners are probably one of the best things you could give your German shepherd. Hiding treats in one of your hands, leaving the other one empty, and making your dog figure out the right hand makes for great fun.

It’s as simple as that. You can also play a variant of this nose game by putting the treats in a container that your GSD has to open. It will stimulate your dog’s brain on different levels, and you will have the privilege of enjoying the process.

Want More Than Nose Games?

While all of these games are simplified versions of professional dog scent work, you can also join a program that does exactly that. A quick Google search will give you results on trainers that can successfully teach your dog to do proper scent work.

It’s all fun and games until it gets competitive. The American Kennel Club considers scent work a sport discipline for dogs. Once your dog is eligible for it, you can even give the title a shot. 

Scent work is the only dog sports where the dog leads the handler and not the other way around. It’s a great experience for both owners and German shepherds to enlist in such events, and have some elevated fun.


[1] Admin. (2020, June 9). How far away can dogs smell and hear? Faculty of Sciences, Engineering and Technology | University of Adelaide. Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://set.adelaide.edu.au/news/list/2020/06/09/how-far-away-can-dogs-smell-and-hear