How to offer our dogs to use their noses to find good things to eat. The search for food is part of survival reflexes, all dogs have this innate talent. This activity can be offered at least once a day.
Treats appreciated by our dog, in small pieces or pâté.
Description and evolution
Step 1: scatter 5 treats, in front of the dog, on a small area. To make the exercise easier for a dog who has difficulties, we can start in a quiet room of the house.
Step 2: scatter a larger quantity of treats in, still in front of the dog, over a larger area.
Step 3: same amount of treats, out of the dog’s sight, on the same area. It is important to add one difficulty at a time: the amount of treats, the surface, the environment (quiet, noisy, distracting, …), in or out of sight of the dog. Only one parameter changes between two steps of the exercise.
Step 4: same amount of treats, in front of the dog, on the same surface, in the garden for those who offered the exercise at home or on a walk (clear ground) for those who already used the garden. When a new parameter creates too much difficulty, we can decrease the level of difficulty.
Step 5: We increase the difficulty of the search and we keep offering these searches throughout the day. The weather can also help us diversify environments.
Step 6: After working on the ground, maybe put some treats higher. Place melted cheese or pâté on a wall, a post, a dryer, planters, etc.
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 offer him? 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 we have skipped steps in the progression of learning). It’s up to us to offer him a game that lives up to his physical and / or emotional abilities.
Some dogs do not share their food. It is imperative to offer to these dogs the possibility to do treat searches on their own. It’s up to us to offer a game adapted to the social abilities of our dog.
LET’S KEEP UN MIND that :
- All dogs have this talent;
- we should offer treats that are enjoyed by our dog;
- Treat searches can be offered once to several times a day;
- 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.