How to offer our dogs to use their nose and their resourcefulness to find a toy that we have hidden.
- Our dog’s favorite toy,
- A container (bin, laundry basket, cardboard box , bucket …) adapted to the size of our dog who must be able to easily pick up an object lying at the bottom,
- Newspaper or empty rolls of toilet paper / kitchen paper.
Description and evolution
For the game described below, assume that we have chosen a laundry basket, a toy and loo rolls.
Step 1: Let’s settle into a quiet room in the house (where our dog feels comfortable), drop the toy into the laundry basket, in front of our dog. No other object is in the laundry basket. As soon as he becomes interested in his toy (looks at it, approaches it, sniffs it, touches it with his muzzle or his paw, picks it up, …), reward him. We do this until our dog is interested in his toy in the most committed way (each dog will naturally give a marking: by touching with his paw, by staring at the object, by barking or taking it in his mouth for example). It is interesting for this game that our dog brings us back / gives his toy. If he does not do it naturally, we will teach him during specific game sessions.Pour le jeu décrit ci-dessous, partons du principe que nous avons choisi une manne, un jouet et des rouleaux en carton.
Vidéo: jouet dans une manne
Step 2: In the same room of the house, in the same laundry basket, we place some loo rolls and put the toy amongst the loo rolls, in front of our dog. The toy remains visible despite the loo rolls. As soon as he gives us back/marks his toy, he is rewarded.
Only one single parameter changes between two stages of the exercise: either the container, or out of the dog’s sight, the environment, or the visibility of the object.
|Vidéo: jouet dans une manne et quelques rouleaux|
Step 3: In the same room of the house, in the same laundry basket, let’s place even more loo rolls and drop the toy into the rolls, in front of our dog. The toy is almost immersed in the loo rolls. As soon as he gives us back/marks his toy, we reward him.
Step 4: In the same room of the house, in the same laundry basket, we put the toy in the basket and cover it with loo rolls, in front of our dog. The toy is totally immersed. As soon as he gives us back/marks his toy, he is rewarded.
Step 5: In the same room of the house, in the same laundry basket, we place some loo rolls and put the toy in them, out of our dog’s sight. The toy is visible despite the rollers. As soon as he brings us his toy, we reward him.
When a new parameter creates too much difficulty (out of our dog’s sight for example), we can decrease the level of difficulty of one of the other parameters (less rolls for example).
Step 6: In the same room of the house, in the same laundry basket, we put the toy and cover it with loo rolls, out of our dog’s sight. The toy is totally immersed. As soon as he brings us his toy, we reward him.
Next steps: start all over again … with new containers (cardboard or suitcase that can be closed, a bush or hedge from the garden, …) or other objects (new toy, wallet, mobile , …).
Vidéo: boudin caché 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 toy, we need to make it more interesting. We can use a new toy (novelty attraction), a pencil case in which we will hide treats (a knotted sock may also contain treats). We can also offer him an exceptional treat (a tasty reward to chew for example). It’s up to us to offer him an interesting and attractive item.
If our dog likes the item 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 we have skipped steps in the progression of learning / if the container is challenging or scary). It’s up to us to offer him a game that lives up to his physical and / or emotional abilities.
Some dogs could also accept the game with some items but not with others: metal keys for example are not very pleasant to have in the mouth.
On the other hand, if our dog is too appreciative of the container or the objects of camouflage, they might hold all his attention and he might forget about the toy. Our dog may also build up pressure and prefer to destroy or shred the container (quick solution) rather than trying to calmly resolve the problem. It’s up to us to respect the tolerance threshold of our dog.
LET’S KEEP UN MIND that :
- We should offer treats/objects that are enjoyed by our dog;
- We should choose containers adapted to 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.