Release the dog and give the “Go find” command in a happy excited voice. If he seems puzzled, you can name the object. “Go find, Bear.”
Try going outside, which adds wind direction into the equation and can stir up scents. Hide object B upwind, so that the prevailing air movement will carry the scent towards the dog.
As well as retrieving hidden toys on command, teaching a dog to find things has a practical side. While your dog may not graduate to being a fully fledged tracker dog, learning to use his nose is a fantastic skill.
Imagine putting down your car keys and not being able to find them. Because keys are handled a lot and smell of the owner, they make a great object for a dog to find. When hes used to finding your sock, hat, or T-shirt, then you can simply give him a piece of clothing to sniff then tell him “Go find.” He then helpfully sniffs out and tracks down the missing keys. Result!
Training a dog to find things is a form of scent tracking. It involves identifying an object and then hiding it, such that the dog has to go and find it. This can either be done by giving the dog the object to sniff before it is hidden, or showing the dog the object and then hiding it.
There are two ways to teach this trick. You can teach your dog to retrieve the item, or to lay down next to it. Your dog doesn’t have to be a natural retriever to do this, but you do need a dog that likes to use their nose.
When I used to do public relations demonstrations, I would ask to borrow a set of keys from someone in the audience. They would toss their keys out into the grass, and then I would send my patrol dog to sniff them out and retrieve them. That’s always a crowd pleaser and easy to teach if you have a dog that likes to use his nose.
Also, once your dog gets good with leather move on to a variety of other articles. Keys, screwdrivers, and other hard objects can be difficult for retrievers, so go back to basics and teach the dog to sit and hold the object in his mouth.
If your dog runs around with the article and doesn’t want to bring it back to you, train him to sit in front of you holding the item in his mouth. Use the same command, “fetch,” and hold your hands around his mouth as he holds it. You may need to tie him to something so he doesn’t attempt to run away from you.
Teaching your dog to find lost things is a great dog trick that will amaze your friends.
The first stage of the game is introducing your dog to the concept of finding a barely-camouflaged toy. To begin, grab a toy that you know your dog adores or, even better, invest in a brand new one so the game will be that much more exciting for him. Place your dog in a stay or of you haven’t perfected the cue while you move around, either use a leash to anchor your dog to a heavy piece of furniture or ask a friend to hold your dog.
Victoria Schade is a dog trainer, author & speaker who has contributed to The Washington Post, Martha Stewart, and other publications.
There’s a chance your dog might act confused at first and look to you for guidance. While it’s tempting to lead your dog over to where you’ve hidden the toy, don’t do it. Give him some verbal encouragement and allow his powerful sense of smell to kick in. If your dog seems reluctant (which is unlikely if you’ve done enough foundation finds) you can praise your dog as he gets closer to the hidden toy or, in a worst-case scenario, stand near but not right next to where you’ve hidden it. Avoid leading your dog to the hiding spot, as he might become dependent on you for clues.
Once you and your dog have gone through a number of repetitions and your dog understands the connection between the phrase “find it” and actually seeking out the toy, take him out of the room for his first blind find. To guarantee your dog’s success, place the toy in one of the spots you’ve already used during the introductory steps. Then let your dog back in the room and tell him to “find it.”
“Find it” is a great bonding game that will mentally tax your dog after just a few rounds of play. Your dog will adore playing it, and you’re bound to be amazed by the skills contained within that adorable sniffer!