How to offer our dogs to use their nose and their resourcefulness to find an object that we have “lost”, during one of our walks for example.
- An object appreciated by our dog,
- Treats our dog really enjoys.
Description and evolution
Step 1 : Let’s start by making sure our dog is interested by to the chosen object, let’s say a sock. The sock is placed on the ground, in front of our dog. As soon as he shows an interest, he is rewarded. We do this until our dog is interested in the sock in the most committed way (each dog will naturally propose a marking: by touching with a paw, by looking at the object and barking or by taking it in his mouth for example).
Step 2: In the same room of the house, standing near our dog, we drop the sock on the floor, in front of our dog. Our dog is rewarded every time he shows an interest in the sock.
Step 3: In the same room of the house, standing up, a little further away from our dog, we drop the sock on the floor, in front of our dog. Our dog is rewarded every time he shows an interest in the sock.
Only one single parameter changes between two stages of the exercise: the distance, or out of the dog’s sight, the environment, or the visibility of the object.
Step 4: In the garden, standing near our dog, we drop the sock on the ground, in front of our dog. Our dog is rewarded every time he shows an interest in the sock.
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.
Step 5: Let’s take a walk with our dog in the garden and drop the sock, out of our dog’s sight. Let’s stop and invite our dog to look for the sock.
Our body language will help our dog if we are completely focused on the lost object, as well as staring at the object.
Vidéo: Augmenter la distance
Step 6: let’s take a walk in the garden with our dog, along a hedge and drop the sock, out of our dog’s sight, in the grass. Let’s stop and invite our dog to look for the sock.
Vidéo: Rapport de l’objet perdu
Step 7: Let’s start to “lose” our sock on a walk.
Changing the environment creates a significant difficulty, let’s reduce the level of difficulty of one of the other parameters (reducing the distance for example or choosing a place where our dog can clearly see the object ).
Next steps: Let’s start all over again … with a new object (wallet, slipper, key ring, …).
Learning without pressure
These game sessions are necessarily very short (less than 5 minutes and 3 sessions maximum in one day). During each session, our dog will have to use his brain and his nose which requires loads of concentration. If the session is too long or if we do too many sessions on the same day, we risk failure. It is important to stop on a positive note, even if it seems to us that the last game was very easy to solve. Beginners need time to develop their skills as they go. And let’s not forget that learning optimally takes place 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 showing him where the hidden treat is. The purpose of the game is that our dogs develop their nose skills and confidence, 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 and the object 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).It’s up to us to offer them a game that lives up to their physical and / or emotional abilities.
On the other hand, if our dog likes the chosen object too much , he will keep it for himself and will not give it back to us. For the next sessions, we will use an object that our dog is happy to “gives us back” . We can also teach him to give back the object during specific sessions.
As soon as our dog understands that we are becoming extremely clumsy and that we often drop objects, it is possible that he will become hyper-vigilant and observe us excessively. It’s up to us to respect what our dog’s tolerance threshold.
LET’S KEEP UN MIND that :
- We should offer treats that are enjoyed by our dog;
- We should offer objects that are appreciated by our dog;
- We should only increase the difficulty, one step at a time;
- We should offer a learning environment without pressure;
- Shorts sessions are essential
- We should offer a game which is adapted to the needs, expectations and abilities of our dog.