How to Train Your Dog to Find Hidden Objects

Easy
2-4 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

Do you remember those old cop movies where the K-9 (cop talk for police dog) tracks down the bad guy and his human buddy makes the bust? While your pup may never be the hero, there is no reason why you can't teach him to find a few hidden objects just for fun and exercise. Not to mention the fact that your pup is going to thoroughly enjoy the new game you are about to teach him.

Teaching your pup to use his nose to sniff things out is simply making use of his natural talents. Despite the fact your dog's nose is approximately 2,000 times more sensitive than yours, he has become too accustomed to using visual cues around his home to find them. This training will help him restore his sense of smell and how to use it to find things. 

Defining Tasks

The task at hand is very simple. You will be training your dog to use his sense of smell along with his eyes to locate objects like toys or treats that you have hidden while he couldn't see you. But there is more to this than simply teaching him to find things, you are stimulating his brain, giving him some exercise, and building his confidence.

At the same time, you are giving your pup a job to do, one that he can be very proud of. It's a great time to bond with your pup while you both have a great time. The only commands you might need are 'find it' and 'fetch'. You can teach this trick to any age dog, but the sooner you get started the faster he will learn and the more fun you can have together. 

Getting Started

To get started, your pup should already know the basic commands, 'sit', 'stay', 'come', 'down' and 'fetch'. You need to know whether your pup is food or toy-motivated. In other words, which one he is more likely to search for. Maybe you are lucky, and your pup will search for both with equal enthusiasm once he is ready to start training. There really isn't much you need in the way of supplies, but you will need:

  • Treats
  • Toys or food snacks
  • Hiding places
  • Patience
  • Time

The most important thing to remember is that this will take your pup a little time to perfect, be patient and have as much fun as possible with this great game. 

The Which Hand Method

Effective
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Step
1
Grab a treat
Grab one of your pup's favorite treats and fold it up inside a fist.
Step
2
Let your dog sniff
Let your dog sniff at both hands until he figures out which one has the treat. When he does, show him the treat and let him have it.
Step
3
Hide the treat
With your hands behind your back put a treat in one of them and then hold your hands in front of you and ask your pup "which hand?" Each time he "points" at the right hand praise him and give him the treat. Repeat this until your dog get it right every time (this shouldn't take long).
Step
4
Gain distance
Now make your dog sit and show him a treat, then walk it across the room, placing it where he can see it. Give him the 'find it' command and praise him for doing a good job. Repeat this until he finds it no matter where you place the treat. Try this same trick using one of your pup's favorite toys until he goes right to it every time.
Step
5
Hide the toy
Start hiding the toy where he can't see it, this will make him put his nose to work sniffing out the toy. Each time he does so, praise him and reward him with a treat. Move the toy further out and make it harder to find. Your pup will soon be finding objects you show him anytime you hide them from him.
Recommend training method?

The Nose Game Method

Effective
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Step
1
A smelly treat
Start with a nice smelly treat or a few pieces of popcorn, something your dog should have no problem smelling out.
Step
2
Stay in position
Call your dog over and have him sit. Tell him to stay, show him the treat, and let him get a good sniff at it.
Step
3
Out of sight
While he stays put, take the treat and make touch points with it on the floor, then hide the treat around the corner.
Step
4
Find it
Tell your dog to find it and release him from the stay position. He should be able to use his nose to go from one of the touch points you created to the next until he finds the treat. Praise him and give him the treat.
Step
5
Make it hard for him
Once he has mastered finding objects in plain sight, start hiding them and not leaving any scent pads. This will make him put that great sniffer of his to work sampling the air scents to find what he is looking for. Practice makes perfect, just make every practice session as much fun as possible for both of you.
Recommend training method?

The Obvious Hiding Spot Method

Effective
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Step
1
Start with 'sit'
Have your dog sit in front of you.
Step
2
Smell it
Hold the training object, like one of your smelly socks or one of his most chewed on toys up so that your pup can get a good whiff of it.
Step
3
Hide it
Hide your training object under something it will be easy for your pup to find. This could be under a towel in the middle of the floor. Say "find it" and let your pup find it. Be sure to praise him for finding it and give him a treat.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat this step several times each day, but each time move the toy or treat farther and farther away, making it progressively harder to find.
Step
5
Add difficulty
Now make it more challenging by switching toys for him to find and hiding them in harder to locate spots. Each time you release him, use the "find it" command to help your pup associate the task with the command. The rest is up to you and your dog, get out there and have some fun!
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

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