Lesson 3 of 7
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Teaching the Cue

In this chapter we go through the basic steps of teaching your dog to search. If you have been playing search games a while, you can skip ahead to ‘Dummy Drop’ – or, if you’ve done any of our search game courses before, go straight to the Single Egg Hunt chapter.


Stage 1: Free search

Using your search cue (‘Find it!’ or whatever you use), allow your dog to conduct a free search. This is where they search freely without any direction from us. Quite often dogs will find it during the free search stage. If not, make a mental note of the places they haven’t searched and move onto the next phase.

Stage 2: Directed search

If after completing the free search, our dogs look to us for help or disengage from the task, now is the time to begin to work together as a team. 

Ways to do this:

  • With a sweeping arm movement and flat palm, suggest places they could try searching
  • Re-cue them using your search word e.g. ‘Find it!’

Stage 3: Detailed search

In this phase of the search we can give our dogs more help by actually opening lids/flaps/removing layers so that they can search more closely. We could take items out of the line one by one to allow for a more thorough investigation.


Say ‘Find it!’ as you release your dog but do not keep repeating it while they are searching. If their nose is down and they’re busy, they don’t need to be told to ‘Find It’ again as they are in the process of finding it. Only re-cue them if they look like they need help.

How do we know if they need help?

  • Disengagement from the task
  • Coming back to you and looking at you

You may need to help them out a little at first by tapping the area around where the hide is placed to engage their interest in that area.

Don’t be too keen to step in and help unless they really need it as we want to encourage a nice confident and independent search style. If you made the hides easy enough to begin with and they trust that there’s something there to find, you shouldn’t need to re-cue them too much anyway.

Don’t make the hiding places too difficult the first time, we want to give them lots of small, easy successes to show them that the game is fun and rewarding!

Once they understand that every time you say ‘Find it!’ there’s always something there to find, you can begin to make the hides more complex by putting them inside other things, layering them up or raising the heights.