Scentventure Compass Point: Exploration
Congratulations, Scentventurer! Your basic training is complete and you are ready to set out on the great Quest.
The road ahead will take you on a journey of exploration and discovery. You need to pack wisely. You need a Scentventure Sack.
Sometimes we try to tire our dogs out in the shortest time possible and so activities often involve frantic behaviour or fast, repetitive, compulsive activities such as ball play that elevate arousal levels and make our dogs’ behaviour worse.
Slowing down and doing exploratory activities every day helps dogs feel calmer and allows them to learn new training faster and more effectively – which is just the thing we need when we’re teaching new skills!
- Choose a sack style
2. Choose a container style
- Tupperware boxes are easiest – especially for containing food, however, some dogs may become startled by the noise when you crack open the lid.
- You can use cardboard boxes instead (wet food may still need to be placed in a lidless Tupperware box inside the cardboard one).
- Some dogs may try to put the whole box in their mouth. If this is likely to be your dog, use cardboard boxes rather than plastic that may cause injury.
- Paper bags – I love this option as you can buy lots of bags for a cheap price and pull them out whenever you need them.
- Recycle your mail e.g. envelopes, packing boxes, etc.
3. Choose the contents
Consider all of the senses!
- Smell – non-edible. Extra points for choosing something that hasn’t come from your own home e.g. from a charity shop, gathered from your walk or swapped with a friend.
- Sight – something your dog hasn’t seen before
- Sound – something that makes a gentle sound when tapped or rustled
- Touch – something with an unusual texture
- Taste – try a small amount of something novel that your dog hasn’t eaten before, as long as it’s safe. One thing to lick and one thing to chew works well.
4. Choose a place
Enjoy your first Scentventure Sack at home or in the garden so you can be fully present to your dog’s choices. Next, find a quiet spot on your Ugly Walk. Once your dog is familiar with the activity, you can use it to progress their calm behaviour on walks, e.g.:
- For dogs that lack confidence or are easily distracted, take your Sack to the same place every time, then slowly build up to other environments. The familiarity of the process will help them feel calm.
- In time, you can use it in the presence of distractions as it creates calm confidence in exciting or scary places.
- For dogs that are easily distracted by the environment, the Sack can be an umbilical cord of interaction to keep them focused on you.
- It’s also hand at the vets, groomers, in the car and anywhere else your dog could do with a boost of calm or confidence.
5. Choose a method
- Present your dog with the entire contents from their Sack and allow them to explore at their own pace. This works well when you’re giving it for a birthday, Christmas, Easter, Halloween or graduation present.
- Or, you can slowly open one container at a time and let your dog investigate before moving onto the next one. If you do it this way, save the food until last as most dogs prefer food to the non-edible items.
However you choose to approach it, it’s an opportunity to just sit and ‘be’ with your dog while they explore, without any expectation of outcome.