How to offer our dogs to use their nose to find an object which we unfortunately lost, during a walk for instance (mobile phone, car key,…).
- An object appreciated by our dog,
- Treats appreciated by our dog.
Description and evolution
Step 1 : we start in a quiet room of the house (in which he feels comfortble). Let’s establish a strong interest for the choosen object in our dog: a sock for instance. We put the sock on the floor, in front of our dog. As soon as he is interested in it (comes to it, sniffs, touches with the nose or paw, picks up in its mouth,…), we praise and give a treat. We repeat this process until our dog is systematically interested in it, and in a more committed way (each dag will choose his own way to mark: to touch with the paw, stare and bark or pick up in its mouth for instance.
Step 2 : in the same room, we stand up close to our dog and drop the sock on the floor, at the sight of the dog, clearly visible on the floor. Our dog receive a treat each time he is interested in the sock.
Step 3 : in the same room, we stand up less close to our dog and drop the sock on the floor, at the sight of the dog, clearly visible on the floor. Our dog receive a treat each time he is interested in the sock.
Only one parameter changes between two steps of the exercise : either the distance between us and our dog, at the sight or out the sight of the dog, environment, visibility of the object.
Step 4 : in the garden, we stand up close to our dog and drop the sock on the floor, at the sight of our dog, clearly visible on the floor. Our dog receive a treat each time he is interested in the sock.
When a new parameter creates too much difficulty (change of environment for instance), it is possible to decrease the level of difficulty of one of the other parameters (by decreasing the distance for instance).
Step 5 : we walk in the garden with our dog and drop the sock, out of the sight of our dog, clearly visible on the floor. We stop and ask our dog to search the sock.
Our body language can help our dog if we turn fully to the lost object and also stare the object.
Video: To increase the distance
Step 6 : we walk in the garden with our dog, along the edge of an area with grass and drop the sock, out of the sight of the dog, on the grass. We stop and ask our dog to search the sock.
Video: To retrieve the lost object
Step 7 : we start to “loose” our sock durint a walk.
The change of environment is a great level of difficulty. In consequence, we decrease the level of difficulty of one of the others parameters (decreasing the distance for instance or choosing an area where the visibility of the object is full).
Next steps : we start again from the step 1… with a new object (wallet, slipper, key ring,…).
Video: Ink is finding lost car keys
Learning without pressure
The sessions are imperatively very short (less then 5 minutes and maximum 3 sessions a day). Each session of nose work requires a lot of focus. Long sessions or many repetitive sessions lead to failure. The best way is to stop on a positive note, even the last offered game was very easy. The beginners need time to develop their skills. 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 instance). 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 pointing the place where the lost object is. To stare and turn our body to the object are important indications. 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 definitively 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 is not interested in the object, let’s ask us how to make it more interesting. With a sock, we can for instance put treats inside it and knot the end. It’s up to us to offer an interesting and attractive object.
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 them a game that lives up to their physical and / or emotional abilities.
Some dogs may also accept the game with some objects but not with others: metal keys for instance are uncomfortable to pick up in the mouth. Other dogs are too much interested in the object, keep it and refuse to give it us. It is important to use good items. We have to teach our dog to request during specific sessions of game.
As soon as our dog understands that we become extremely clumsy and that we really lose our object very often, it is possible that he becomes hyper-vigilant and that he observes us excessively. It’s up to us to respect the tolerance threshold of our dog.
- To offer treats which are appreciated by our dog;
- To choose an object which is appreciated by our dog ;
- To improve the difficulty’s level, step by step ;
- No pressure ;
- To organize short sessions ;
- To choose games which are adapted to the needs, expectations and abilities of our dog.