Scentventure Compass Point: Scent
Linear searches are a great indoor activity to aid calm relaxation as they encourage your dog to search methodically and in a concentrated manner – i.e. they use up a lot of brain-and-nose power!
Do this before going for a walk to take the edge off your dog’s energy and start the walk from a calmer place. Or do it any time you need to entertain your dog at home – a good linear search session can substitute a walk or complement a short walk.
- 4-6 containers e.g. pots, bowls, bags, shoes, etc.
- Food or a toy to hide.
See the picture below. Place the containers in a straight line, close together and evenly spaced. By keeping the search containers close together, your dog will learn a concentrated and continuous search. Push the containers up against the perimeter of the room so there is only one direction that your dog can approach them from.
This is where a ‘stay/wait’ cue comes in handy so you can ask your dog to stay still while you put the food/toy in position each time. Alternatively ask a helper to gently restrain them by the harness, or put them outside of the room while you set up.
- Place your hide (food/toy) into the first container. Tap that container to show your dog where you would like them to start searching and say your search cue e.g. ‘Find it!’. (If you have a helper restraining this is when they let go of your dog.)
- Celebrate with them when they find it! If they found food they will eat it, if they found a toy have a game with them.
- Now, move the hide to the second container but start your search from the first container, again by tapping it.
- Then the third container and then the fourth, always tapping the first container. As you move the food/toy further down the line your dog may start to miss out the first containers. If this happens, go back to placing the scent in the first and second containers for a couple of repetitions. The idea is that we build reinforcement history in the early part of the line so they are more likely to check there next time. Some dogs will put their nose into every single container, some will skim over the surface.
- You can now start to mix it up. Rather than moving the hide from container 1 to 2 to 3 to 4, make it random.
As scent is moved from one search container to another, your dog may be aware of residue scent – this increases the challenge and makes them sniff harder!
Here are some ways to up the ante:
- Make your line longer by adding more containers to search
- Don’t always put the hide in the containers, sometimes put it between them
- Introduce heights and different levels to the linear search to encourage your dog to lift their nose up, rather than always at staying at ground level
- Set up your search with your dog out of the room and bring them in when you’re ready for them to search