Have you ever been playing Hide and Go Seek and, while you were really struggling to find the hider, you looked over at your dog lying beside you and thought, "I bet my dog knows where to find him?" Dogs have a fantastic sense of smell and many dogs loyally try to keep track of where all the people that they love are. Playing Hide and Go Seek with your dog is not only fun but it can also really encourage your dog to pay attention to you, to come to you, and to stay close to you. It is a great game for building a bond with your dog. Plus who would not want your dog helping him when it's his turn to be the seeker?
Games like Hide and Go Seek are a great way to prepare your dog for search and rescue work. Although your dog may be too old now for such work, the types of activities involved in search and rescue training can build many of the same important traits that keep an older dog still feeling young. Hide and Go seek can teach your dog how to use his nose when he is looking for someone, and when your older dog uses his nose it also stimulates his brain, which is good for his mental health. It can help him to take direction better, and many older dogs struggle to obey when their energy levels and, thus motivation, decrease. It can help him to focus, which is also good for mental health. It can help him to grasp the concept of searching for something that he cannot see, and it can help him to learn to think independently while he makes decisions and problem solves. Both of which are good for his mental health. Furthermore, Hide and Go Seek is a great way to exercise your older dog physically to keep his body healthy.
Not only is Hide and Go Seek fun, a great way to build your relationship with your dog, and a great way to keep your older dog feeling young, Hide and Go seek can also be very convenient. Have you ever been at home and wondered where everyone in your house was? Did you have to walk into several rooms before you found the person you were looking for? By teaching your dog how to play Hide and Go Seek you are also teaching your dog how to find individual people by name. Later, when you are looking for that person that your dog usually plays with, you can simply tell your dog to find that person. This is one great reason to get your family, roommate, or friends involved in teaching your dog this game. If that person plays the game with your dog, then your dog will know how to find that specific person when instructed to.
Some dogs grasp the concept of looking for someone rather quickly. After all, certain breeds were bred to be able to focus on their owners even from great distances. Other breeds were bred with fantastic noses for tracking people and animals. If your dog is one of these types of dogs, or just inherited that specific trait in general, then this game might come rather easily for your dog. If your dog is far more independent and is not used to using his nose to find things, then you will need to be more patient with him and expect this to take longer to teach.
In general, expect this to take between three and six weeks, with more difficult hides with multiple people possibly taking even longer. You can speed up the process by being sure to choose the method that will motivate your dog the most. For example, if he does not care about affection and praise but is obsessed with toys, then you should probably not choose the 'Run and Hide' method, but instead should try the 'Toy' method.
Because this game demands physical exertion from your dog, be sure to pay attention to how tired your older dog is getting. If he seems to be getting winded or sore, end the game for now and resume it after he is rested and feeling well. It may also be difficult for him to focus for long periods of time, so be aware of his mental state as well, and give him breaks if he is becoming mentally tired or frustrated.
While training this, remember to not take yourself too seriously. You will need to have fun with your dog and to get him excited to play the game. Do not be afraid to act silly. A little goofiness can really get your dog into the game. If you are too serious or frustrated it will only hinder your efforts at training. Plus laughter is good for your health too, so why not enjoy!
To get started, you will need several things. First, you will need an assistant that your dog loves. You will need a spacious and safe location, where your dog cannot run away, to practice this in. A fenced in backyard is ideal as a starting location. You will also need a happy attitude and a bit of silliness to make things fun for your dog, and for you! This is especially important if you are using the 'Run and Hide' method.
If you are using the 'Treat' method, you will also need several small and tasty treats. Ideally, something that your dog can easily eat, since he will be moving a lot. If you are using the 'Toy' method, you will need two toys that your dog loves. If you dog likes to play Tug of War, then two tug toys to play with him with will work well. One toy for each person. If your dog does not like to play Tug of War then you can substitute the tug toys for balls, to play short games of fetch with him instead.