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Puppies love to play. They have lots of energy and playing is the way they learn about the world around them. One way to keep your puppy entertained is to teach them fun games to play with you. 'Find the treat' is an easy and simple game you can play with your puppy. It can help them channel their energy and reinforce some of the other skills you've taught them already, such as 'sit' and 'stay'.
Training your puppy to play 'find the treat' is easy and should only take a week or so. Before getting started, make sure your puppy has a good grasp on the four main commands: 'sit', 'stay', 'down', and 'come'. It is also a good idea to train your puppy to fetch. That way, they will bring back what they found to you rather than simply eating anything they unearth.
For this game, you will need a quiet space with plenty of places to hide things, along with some yummy treats. Ideally, you should choose small treats that smell strongly, so your pup can follow their nose to the reward. Have a collar and a leash on hand as well. Remember, this isn't a typical training session. You are teaching your puppy the rules to a game, so make sure the experience is fun for you and your buddy.
The Toss Method
Get set up
Call your puppy into a quiet room and bring plenty of treats with you. Tell your puppy to sit. If you need to give your pup the 'stay' command to keep them from wiggling off, do so.
Toss a treat
Show your puppy a treat and then toss it into the center of the room while saying "find it." Your puppy will take off after the treat.
Mark the good action
As soon as your puppy reaches the treat, say "good find it" or click the clicker if you are doing clicker training. Then call your puppy back to you and have them sit.
Practice for a while
This trick is right up your puppy's alley, so you don't need to practice the toss aspect of the trick for too long. Start throwing the treat farther from your puppy or into an area where it is harder to see.
Up the difficulty
Once your puppy is finding the treat every time, start hiding the treat in more and more difficult locations. Every time your puppy finds the treat, praise them and let them enjoy the treat. Keep raising the difficulty until your pup is an expert sleuth.
The Too Easy Method
Get your pup into position
In a quiet room, put your puppy into a 'sit' or 'down' and then tell them to stay while showing them you have a treat.
Hide the treat somewhere obvious
Keep your puppy's attention on you and let them watch as you hide the treat. You may need to tell them to stay again, depending on your puppy's skill level with that command. Choose an obvious and easy to reach hiding place to start out.
Release your pup
Once your treat is hidden, say your puppy's trained release word or use the command "find it" to let them free from the 'sit' or 'down'. Your pup should easily find the treat you've hidden.
Reward them and play again
When your puppy finds the treat, praise them for solving the treasure hunt and give them praise for a job well done. Then repeat the steps, hiding the treat in a different, but similarly easy, location.
Choose a harder hiding place
Once your puppy seems confident about finding the treat in an easy location, choose a more difficult hiding place. As you play more, you can start hiding the treat in other rooms where your puppy can't see it. In general, puppies enjoy the challenge of finding a difficult treat.
The Sniff It Out Method
Let your puppy sniff the treat
For this method, it is best to choose a treat with a strong smell so your puppy can follow his nose to the reward. Let your puppy get a good whiff of the treats before you hide them.
Start off easy
After letting your pup smell the treat, put them into a 'sit' and tell them to stay. Then go hide the treat in another room. Choose an obvious location that they could find easily enough.
Release your puppy
Go back to your pup and then release them from the 'stay' by saying "find it!" Your puppy should follow their nose right to the treat.
If your puppy finds the treat, make a big fuss over how smart they are and let them enjoy their reward. Now you can play again by repeating the same steps with the treat in a new and different hiding place.
Try to stump your pup
As your puppy gets better at this game, choose harder and harder locations where your puppy has to follow his nose. Hide the treat under things. If your pup keeps finding the treat, try putting it at the bottom of your laundry basket or in a box. If they go to the right location, you can pull the treat out and give it to them. Don't stump your puppy too often though, or they might not want to play anymore!
By Christina Gunning
Published: 04/10/2018, edited: 01/08/2021