How to offer to our dogs to use their brain and their senses to solve a problem that we made for them (find treats in a spinning top, in a container with sliding drawers, …).
The game of the hidden object can already be part of this category: our dog first uses his nose to find the object and then uses his brain to get it (out of the container or bush).
Let’s constantly renew games for new mental stimulation.
Video: To find treats in pairs
|Video: Resourcefulness games in pairs|
There are a lot of different containers that we can find in stores, of course we can make them ourselves, which will be cheaper.
Description and evolution
Let’s imagine that we have a large plastic paw, with sliding drawers and a swivel drawer.
Video: plastic paw with drawers
Step 1 : let’s choose a quiet room in the house (where our dog feels comfortable), and put the plastic paw on the floor. At the sight of our dog, let’s put a candy in one of the drawers. A single candy, in a single drawer that we leave open. Our dog becomes familiar with the plastic paw.
Let’s keep in mind that our dog is rewarding himself, since he eats the treat as soon as he finds it. We can not do any faster!
Step 2 : in the same room of the house, at the sight of our dog, let’s place a treat in the drawer of the plastic paw and close the drawer. Let our dog figure the drawer out. It’s up to him to test and use his nose or paw to solve the problem.
Only one single parameter changes between two stages of the exercise: either the type of closure, or the place of the treats, or the environment.
Step 3 : in the same room of the house, place a treat in the swivel drawer and close it. Let our dog solve this new problem with the change of opening mechanism.
Step 4 : in the same room of the house, at the sight of our dog, let’s put a treat in the different drawers of the plastic paw and close all the drawers.
Step 5 : in the same room of the house, out of our dog’s sight, let’s put treats in the different drawers of the plastic paw and close all the drawers.
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 drawers, or leave some drawers open).
Step 6 : in the same room of the house, out of our dog’s sight, let’s put small pieces of biscuits (less odorous) in the different drawers of the plastic paw and close all the drawers.
Next steps : let’s start all over again … with new containers (bought or home made).
Working the brain and memory
These games are still brain and resourcefulness games as long as it’s new. If we offer to our dog to search for treats again and again with the same plastic paw, our dog will simply remember (“how did I solve that?”) and will no longer use his brain and resourcefulness. Let’s constantly renew games for new mental stimulation.
Learning without pressure
These game sessions are necessarily very short (less than 5 minutes and 3 sessions maximum in one day). Each session, our dog will have to use his brain and his nose which requires a lot 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 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 instance, by showing 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 likes the 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).
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, a container which moves in all directions (as a spinning top) can be exciting. 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 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.
Some dogs will be frustrated if they can not solve the problem. They may want to get to the treats by force (destroy the plastic paw for example). It’s up to us to offer them a game that lives up to their tenacity and their patience.
Videos: Fripouille is stealing a spinning top, breaking it and creating her own game of treats search.
- To offer an exceptional treat appreciated by our dog ;
- To choose adapted containers ;
- To improve the difficulty’s level, step by step ;
- No pressure ;
- To organize short sessions ;
- To offer an adapted game to the needs, expectations and abilities of our dog ;
- To renew constantly games by offering new problems to solve.