How to offer our dogs to use their nose to find good things to eat, hidden (in a box, under a pot of yogurt, …). Searching food is part of the basic survival reflexes, all dogs have this innate talent.
- Treats appreciated by our dog,
- Yogurt pots or any other container.
Description and evolution
Step 1: a single treat but not too small, at the sight of the dog, placed under a pot of yoghurt. We start in a quiet room of the house (in which he feels comfortable). You can also drill small holes in the bottom of the pot so that the smells are more easily perceptible.
Step 2: a single treat of the same size as in step 1, at the sight of the dog, placed under a pot of yoghurt, ± 20 cm from a second jar of yoghurt (under which we do not place a treat).
Step 3: a single treat of the same size as in step 1 and 2, out of sight of the dog, placed under a pot of yogurt, ± 20 cm from a second jar of yoghurt (under which one place no candy). It is important to add one difficulty at a time: either the size of the candy, the number of pots, the container, the environment (quiet, noisy, distracting, …), or at sight or out of sight of the dog. Only one parameter changes between two steps of the exercise.
Step 4: a small treat, out of the dog’s sight, with 2 pots of yoghurt.
Step 5: a small treat, out of the dog’s sight, with 3 pots of yoghurt.
Step 6: A small treat, again at the sight of the dog, placed under a Tupperware, ± 20 cm from another Tupperware (under which no candy is placed).
When a new parameter creates too much difficulty (change of container for example), it is possible to decrease the level of difficulty of one of the other parameters (by doing the exercise at sight or less containers for example).
Next steps: we keep offering searches increasingly difficult, modifying only one parameter at a time:
- after working at home, exercises can be done outdoors, where there will be more distractions,
- we can increase the distance between containers.
Vidéo: cheese under a metal bucket
In the garden:
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).
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. 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 nose work on their own. It is up to us to offer a game adapted to the social abilities of our dog.
Others are “obsessed” with certain items, such as a plastic can, a cone or any other container that we could use. For these dogs, it is important not to have “too interesting” objects. They will give all their attention to the containers, and not to the hidden treat.
When the box is more interesting than a treat
- All dogs have this talent ;
- To choose treats which are appreciated by our dog;
- To improve the difficulty’s level, step by step;
- No pressure ;
- To choose games which are adapted to the needs, expectations and abilities of our dog.