How to invite our dogs to use their nose to find scrumptious treats, hidden in a box, under a pot of yogurt, …. Searching for food is part of the basic survival instincts, all dogs have this innate talent.
- Treats our dog really enjoys
- Yogurt pots or any other container.
Description et évolution
Step 1: with the dog watching you, place a single reasonably sized treat under a yoghurt jar or other suitable container. As always, we start in a quiet room in the house (in which our dog feels comfortable). To make the smells more perceptible, small holes can also be made in the bottom of the jar .
Step 2: still with the dog watching, a single treat (same size as in step 1), is placed under the yoghurt jar. This jar will be ± 20 cm from a second yoghurt jar (under which we do not place a treat).
Step 3: Now, out of sight of the dog, a single treat (same size as in steps 1 and 2) is placed under the yoghurt jar . This jar (just as in step 2) is ± 20 cm from a second yoghurt jar (under which we do not place a teat). It is important to add only one difficulty at a time: either the size of the treat the number of jars, the choice of container, the environment (quiet, noisy, distracting, …), or in sight or out of sight of the dog. Only one parameter changes at a time.
Step 4: one small treat, out of the dog’s sight, with 2 jars of yoghurt.
Step 5: one small treat, out of the dog’s sight, with 3 jars of yoghurt.
Step 6: with the dog watching once again, 1 small treat placed under a “Tupperware” type container , ± 20 cm from second “Tupperware” type container (under which we do not place a treat).
When a new parameter creates a difficulty (e.g. change of container), one can decrease the level of difficulty of one of the other parameters (by doing the exercise with the dog watching or less containers for example).
Next steps: we keep offering searches increasingly the challenges, remembering to only modify only one parameter at a time:
- after working at home, these games can be tried outdoors, where there will be more distractions,
- we can increase the distance between containers.
Seau en métal:
Dans le jardin:
Learning without pressure
It is possible that our dog will need a pause: he just leaves the search area to do something else or rest. It is pointless to insist and force him to continue, as if we force him, it is no longer a game, it becomes an obligation that will not leave him with a fun memory.
Nose work requires a lot of focus. Beginners need time to develop their skills as they go. And let’s not forget that learning takes place optimally when the dog is not stressed and therefore not put under pressure.
In the same vein, it is useless to “motivate” our dog by repeating the request (“search” for example). While our dog is focused on the treat search, he mainly uses his eyesight and his nose. Repeating “search”, “search”, “search” distracts him and floods his ears and his brain with useless information. It’s just distraction, not motivation.
You do not need to help him, for example by pointing to the treats you see. The purpose of the game is that our dog develops his nose skills, this is not a game of speed or performance. When our dog stops searching, the game is over either temporarily because he just needs a break, or definitely depending on our dog. It is important to respect his learning rhythm.
Let’s also respect his rhythm of recovery: after a busy weekend, our dog needs more rest. The ideal is to offer our dog an easier search game: some treats scattered at home or in the lawn will do the job.
Those who do not cope
If our dog is not interested in the game, it raises the question: does he like the treats we are offering? It’s up to us to offer him treats that live up to his expectations.
If our dog loves these treats but is not interested in this search, it may be because it’s too difficult for him (physically if our dog is old, sick or hurt / emotionally if our dog is not comfortable in the environment for example / if all steps have not been assimilated).
Some dogs may also accept the game with some containers but not with others: a metal container can be noisy, and therefore scary; a container that is too heavy to flip can be discouraging. It’s up to us to offer them a game that lives up to their physical and / or emotional abilities.
Some dogs do not share their food. It is imperative to offer these dogs the possibility to do nose work on their own. It is up to us to offer a game adapted to the social abilities of our dog.
Others are “obsessed” with certain items, such as a plastic bottle, a cone or any other container that we could use. For these dogs, it is important not to use objects which are “too interesting”, as they will give all their attention to the containers, and not to the hidden treat.
LET’S KEEP UN MIND that :
- All dogs have this talent;
- We should offer treats that are enjoyed by our dog;
- We should only increase the difficulty one step at a time;
- We should offer a learning environment without pressure;
- We should offer a game which is adapted to the needs, expectations and abilities of our dog.