How to offer our dogs to use their nose to find good things to eat. Searching food is part of the basic survival reflexes, all dogs have this innate talent. We can offer this game from once a day to four times a day.
Very small pieces of treats appreciated by our dog.
Description and evolution
Step 1 : 5 treats scattered at the sight of the dog, over a small area. To facilitate exercise for dogs in difficulty, we start in a quiet room of the house (in which he feels comfortable).
Step 2 : more treats, again at the sight of the dog, over a larger area.
Step 3 : the same number of treats, out of sight of the dog, over the samed area. It is important to add one difficulty at a time: either the number of treats, the size of the area, the environment (quiet, noisy, distracting,…), at sight or out of sight of the dog. Only one parameter changes between two steps of the exercise.
Step 4 : the same number of treats, again at the sight of the dog, over the same area, in the garden if we offered the game at home or during a walk (open terrain) if we did it in the garden.
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).
Vidéo: Treats search on the terrace
Vidéo: Treats search in the grass
Step 5 : we keep offering searches increasingly difficult, modifying only one parameter at a time. Weather can also help us to diversify environments.
Step 6 : after working on the floor, exercises can be done upright. We put melted cheese or pâté (a slightly sticky food, easy to spread) on an adge of the pavement, a pole, a clothes horse, window boxes,…
Learning without pressure
It is possible that our dog needs a pause: he just leaves the search area to do something else or rest. It is useless to insist and force him to continue the exercise. If we force our dog, it is no longer a game, it becomes an obligation that will not leave him necessarily a good memory.
The 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 (“seek” for example). While our dog is focused on the treat search, he mainly uses his eyesight and his nose. Repeating “seek”, “seek”, “seek” 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 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. Let’s respect his learning rhythm.
Let’s 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 this 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 research, it’s probably 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 it alone. It is up to us to offer a game adapted to the social abilities of our dog.
- All dogs have this talent ;
- To choose treats which are appreciated by our dog ;
- It can be organized from once a day to four times a day;
- 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.