If you or your dog are brand new to searching, start at step 1. Those of you who been playing search games longer can skip to the most relevant step.

Set up

Arrange a selection of items e.g. boxes, pots, containers, buckets, etc in your search area.

Method

1. Start with 10 smelly treats or a favourite toy, and your dog in front of you. Say ‘Find it’ (or any cue you prefer) in an excited voice and place one treat off to the side. Not too far, make sure they can still see it. As soon as they eat that one, place another in the opposite direction and say ‘Find it’ again. Repeat with all 10 treats.

2. Take another 10 treats. One at a time, gradually place them further into the search area. Dogs are still able to see where it is at this stage. 

3. Now place the hide just out of sight. Use your search cue to release them. 

4. This is where it gets interesting, as your dog’s senses will switch from visual to olfactory. With your dog still watching, position the hide (food/toy) in one place but then pretend to put it somewhere else. This is called a ‘dummy drop’ and gets your dog using their nose instead of their eyes. Release with your search cue. They are likely to go to the pretend hide first and of course won’t find anything. That’s when their nose will take over from their eyes!

5. Now start to set up your hides with your dog out of the room. Make it easy at first as we want them to succeed. Open the door and release them with your search cue.

6. Instead of placing the hides in easily accessible places, begin to hide them behind table legs, under cushions, on top of chairs, inside boxes.

Watch and learn how to read their body language so you can understand when they are ‘on scent’. What changes? Do they get more excited or determined? Does their sniffing frequency increase?