Dog Mind Games – Have you ever wondered how the Police & Customs dogs find drugs on criminals or search houses with such accuracy?
Well, I am now going to explain the basics of search scent work in the home using their methods for all pet dogs. Nearly all drugs dogs begin their training through the retrieve game and once mastered it’s transposed into a mind stimulating game.
Teaching Pet Dogs to Scent
I want you to enter the mind of your pet dog through its most wonderful sense, SCENT. Many dogs arrive at my centre for bad behaviour often triggered by boredom so I teach them mind games to help enrich their lives. You too can teach your dog an intelligent mind game using scent and retrieve combined and simultaneously enrich his life naturally.
Dog Retrieve Step 1
Nearly all dogs love retrieve so buy a Kong toy of an appropriate size that’s hollow inside. Gather up all the dog remaining toys and lock them away for a few days, this makes the dog more keen on the new toy, unless your dog is always up for retrieve. Get one family member to hold the dog whilst you throw the toy along the floor and then say “seek”. Let the dog go and bring the Kong back to you, praise him for releasing the toy and repeat many times. After 10 minutes or so lock the toy away. Repeat this routine 3 times daily and for about 3 days. If your dog is uninterested in retrieve I’ll come to that matter later.
Dogs Find Step 2
Once the dog consistently brings you the toy, we up the training. Next, show the dog the toy then throw it behind a chair or couch out of sight and tell the dog to seek. If the dog finds the toy then each session make it more difficult but remember to always praise the dog’s retrieve. The dog now has to use his nose more because he does not know where you placed the hidden toy as you may hide it under a newspaper or similar object.
Dog Hind & Seek Step 3
The dog should now have a full idea of training procedure so now its time to make it a little more fun. Your partner holds the dog again whilst you holding the toy visibly, walk into another room and hide it. Walk back to the room the dogs in and excitedly say “seek” and let him go, follow him, use exited tones and the command intermittently “seek”. Once he finds the toy throw it across the room like a normal retrieve game a few times more and praise him. Remember to secrete the toy away until next training lesson.
Seek & Find Without Help Step 4
Repeat step 3 but this time let him find the toy without you accompanying him and bring it back to you in the room you sent him from. Again repeat the game several times but stop the game before he gets bored.
Over time you can link the seek to other objects or toys and the dogs mind is truly doing what he loves but linked to a fantastic seek game. My dog will literally search the entire house for any article with my scent on it.
If you have dog that’s not retrieve motivated they too can enjoy the game but motivation can be a food treat ensconced in the Kong and why its hollow. Repeat step 1, 2 3 & 4 only placing food in the Kong – make sure the dog has not recently been fed. For the first five times let him sniff the Kong and food then roll it across the floor. He will follow and excavate the food which is more fun and once he’s made the connection he too will begin to search the house for the toy because the smell of the rubber, your scent and the food is what he will mentally links to the seek command.
If you wish to advance the game, hide the toy in the pockets of coats hanging up and repeat the search – when the dog begins to sniff the coat pocket I take the toy out.
Colin Tennant – Expert Dog Behaviourist – MA Canine Behaviour & Psychology