(by Ana Grimh, CPDT-KA)
We are on a roll with all the game playing! Games are a great outlet for getting out some energy, especially on rainy days, or days you are super busy. In our last post, we discussed "Hide and Seek," and this week, we'd like to introduce another delightful game!
"Find It" is going to be a game of searching for a hidden toy, treat, etc on cue. To train "Find It," get your dog's attention, then start training the game by hiding a small high-value treat under a piece of paper or a toy. Let him see you hide it, and even leave it partially in view the first time. Then say "find it!" in an excited voice. Encourage your dog until he or she finds the treat and gobbles it down.
If your dog doesn't get the idea, lift up the paper or toy, show him the treat, partially cover it again, and repeat "find it!" He or she should get the idea quickly. Be sure to keep your voice excited and your tone light and happy. It's important not to get frustrated, since this should be a fun game for both you and your dog. If he or she still doesn't the idea, try a higher value treat. Hide a second treat and repeat the process. Be sure to cheer and act very excited every time he or she finds a treat.
Once he or she gets the idea, start making finding the hidden treat harder and harder. Start hiding treats under different objects, from different pieces of newspaper to other toys. Also begin to work on distance. Start placing the hidden treats two or three feet away from your dog, then four or five. After that, try having another family member distract your dog while you hide a treat. Continue increasing the difficulty level until you can hide treats for your dog to find in another room.
This can also help dogs with separation distress by keeping them busy, as well as making time apart from you positive (with food/treats). In essence, you can hide a bunch of treats and/or stuffed toys (like Kongs) before you leave, tell your dog to “Find It!” and leave. Your dog will get some much needed mental stimulation from all that searching! You can play this little game any time you would like to distract your dog, have fun with your dog, and/or get your dog's energy out in a healthy fashion!