What is it?
We will ask our dogs to use their thinking and their senses to solve a problem that we have made for them (finding treats in a device with movable parts, a container with sliding drawers,…).
The hidden object game can already be part of this category: our dog first uses his sense of smell to find the object and then uses his mind to retrieve it (take it out of the container or the hedge).
Let’s constantly renew games for new mental stimulation.
Video: Finding treats together
|Video: Resourcefulness games together|
What do we need?
There are a lot of different containers for purchase, but of course we can make them ourselves, which will be cheaper.
Description and progression
Let’s imagine that we have a large plastic toy, with sliding drawers and a swivel drawer.
Video: plastic paw with drawers
Step 1: Let’s settle down in a quiet room in the house (where our dog feels comfortable), put the plastic paw on the floor. While our dog is watching, let’s put a treat in one of the sliding drawers. One treat, in one drawer that we leave open. Our dog becomes familiar with the plastic toy.
Remember that our dog rewards himself, as he eats the treat as soon as he finds it. We couldn’t possibly reward him any faster!
Step 2: In the same room of the house, while our dog is watching, place a treat in the drawer of the plastic toy, and close the drawer. Let our dog figure out how to slide the drawer out. It’s up to him to test and use his nose or paw to solve this problem.
Only one parameter changes between two stages of the exercise: either the type of drawer closure, or placing the treats out of the dog’s sight, or the environment.
Step 3: In the same room of the house, place a treat in the swivel drawer and close the drawer. Let our dog solve this new problem caused by the change of the opening mechanism.
Step 4: In the same room of the house, while our dog is watching, place the treats in the different drawers of the toy, and close the drawers.
Step 5: In the same room of the house, while our dog is not watching, place the treats in the different drawers of the toy and close the drawers.
When a new parameter causes great difficulty (with the dog not watching, for example), we can reduce the level of difficulty of one of the other parameters (reduce the number of filled drawers or leave some drawers open, for example).
Step 6: In the same room of the house, while the dog is not watching, put the pieces of dry biscuits (less odorous) in the different drawers of the leg, and close the drawers.
Next steps: start all over again… with new containers (bought or home-made).
Working the brain and memory
These games are still games of reflection and resourcefulness as long as they are new. If we propose to do this treat search game again and again with the same plastic toy, our dog will use his memory (“How did I solve that the last time?”) and not his thinking and resourcefulness. Let’s keep renewing the games for new mental stimulation.
Learning without pressure
These game sessions must be very short (less than 5 minutes and a maximum of 3 sessions during the day). Each session involves reflection and scent work which require a lot of concentration from our dog. If the session is too long or if we repeat too many sessions on the same day, we risk failure. It is better to stop on a positive note, even if it seems to us that the last game offered was very easy to do. Beginners need time to develop their skills as they go along. 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, there is no need to “motivate” our dog by repeating the request (“search” for example). While our dog is focused on the problem he has to solve, he mainly uses his sight and sense of smell. Repetitions of “search”, “search”, “search” distract him and overwhelm his ears and brain with unnecessary information. This is only distraction, not motivation.
It is unnecessary to help them too much, for example, by showing where the hidden treat is. The game is for our dogs to develop their olfactory skills and self-confidence, it is not a game of speed or performance. When our dog stops searching, the game is over either temporarily because a few moments of rest will be enough for him or permanently depending on our dog. Let’s respect his learning pace.
Let’s also respect his recovery pace: a busy weekend means a greater need for rest. The ideal is then to offer our dog an easier search game: scatter a few treats, without hiding them, at home or in the lawn (see “treat search“).
Those who do not cope
If our dog is not interested in this game, a question arises: does he like the treats we offer him? It’s up to us to offer him treats that meet his expectations.
If our dog likes these treats but is not interested in the game, it is probably because it is too difficult for him (physically if our dog is old, sick or injured / emotionally if our dog is not at ease in the environment or with the game containing the treats for example / if we have skipped steps in the learning progression).
Some dogs may also be able to accept play with some containers but not others: a metal container can be noisy, and therefore frightening; a container that is too heavy to knock over can be discouraging; a container that moves around (like a spinning top) can be exciting. It is up to us to offer them a game that matches their physical and/or emotional abilities.
Some dogs do not like to share their food. It is essential to offer these dogs the opportunity to play the game on their own. It is up to us to offer a game adapted to the social abilities of our dog.
Some dogs will be frustrated if they are unable to solve the proposed problem. They may want to take their treats by force (by destroying the hiding place, for example). It is up to us to offer them a game that matches their determination and patience.
Videos: Fripouille steals a spinning top toy, breaks it and creates her own treat search game.
- Offer an exceptional treat that our dog loves;
- Choose appropriate containers;
- Increase the difficulty, step by step;
- Offer learning without pressure;
- Short sessions are a must;
- Offer a game adapted to our dog’s needs, expectations and abilities;
- Constantly renew the games by offering new problems to be solved.