- Have your dog search the boxes even with visual distractions.
- Teach your dog that boxes aren’t the only places they should look for treats.
- Increase their drive and focus on the task.
Supplies You’ll Need:
- 1 dozen cardboard boxes of varied sizes for dog to search for treats.
- Strong-smelling treats your dog will love. I’ve had success with salmon jerky, gorgonzola cheese, and baked liver.
- 1 wide-mouthed plastic container with a lid (like a cottage cheese container) that your dog can stick his face into. You’ll want to poke 3 holes in the lid with a scissors to allow the scent to escape.
- A room with space to move. If you have a very large area, like an unfinished basement, set up some barriers so the search area isn’t too large. A dining area can be a good place to start since it doesn’t usually have much furniture in it to serve as distractions.
- Small household objects to place on the floor around the boxes.
- Move your dog to a room other than the one where you’ll be setting up the game. If your dog has separation anxiety and wouldn’t tolerate this well, try putting a baby gate across the door to keep him from interfering with your set up. You’ll just have to be trickier when it’s time to hide the treats.
- If you have multiple pets, you’ll want to work one dog at a time. Find a secure place for your other pets while each dog is working.
- Lay the open boxes on the floor in any configuration.
- “Decorate” the floor with common household objects–laundry baskets, blankets, stepladders, chairs–whatever you have around.
- Put a few smelly treats into the plastic container you’ve prepared with holes in the top.
- For the first round, put the treat container into one of the boxes.
- Place a few more treats onto the top of the plastic container so your dog gets an instant reward when they find it.
- If your dog is watching you set up from behind a baby gate, “fake hide” treats in several of the boxes by putting your hand into the boxes and moving it around as if you’re hiding something there.
Playing the Game:
After playing the game last week, your dog should know what’s coming when she sees the boxes on the floor. Hopefully she’ll be excited.
- Bring your dog to the entry way of the area where she’ll search.
- Hold her gently by the collar before turning her loose to sniff the treat.
- I like using the phrase “find it” which your dog should learn very quickly.
- As with last week, if your dog looks to you for help, show her your empty hands and she should go back to searching.
- Your dog has found the treat when she eats the ones left on the top of the container. Don’t get too excited when she gets near. You want her to make the find herself.
- As soon as your dog has found and finished eating the treats on top of the plastic container, go in to open the container and feed the remaining treats to her from the box. You want her to learn at this stage that the boxes are a signal for the fun game.
- For the next set up, hide the treat container in or around one of the household objects instead of a box. Repeat the find about 3 or 4 times. You want to be sure to end the game while your dog is still having fun. You can allow turns for other dogs in your house or pick up and put away the boxes and other items until the next time.
Set aside time throughout the week to practice. Continue to work in a fairly small space with the boxes and household items as your dog learns the game.
Things You May See From Your Dog This Week
We noticed the dogs in our class changing over time as they played the nose work game. Here’s some things you may see from your dog:
- Less likelihood to revisit old hiding places.
- Greater confidence in searching.
- Greater speed in finding the treat.
- A higher level of focus on the task.