Beginning Nose Work
Here’s what you need:
Appropriate sized cardboard boxes or containers, they don’t have to be the same.
High value food items that your dog loves. The smellier the better.
Plastic container lids.
The plastic container lids are used to hold the food items so that the containers themselves don’t get contaminated with scent. The container that has the food item is “hot.” The rest of the containers are dummy boxes.
To begin, it is ok for the dog to see you place the treat in the hot box. Release the dog to go get the item, I like to use the cue “find it!” I don’t speak to the dog besides the “find it” cue,
nor do I look at the dog, or motion in any way. You can follow quietly at a distance. When the dog finds the hot box, praise her and toss in some more treats. Repeat this step, varying which box is hot. Remember to put the treat on the plastic lid so the dummy boxes don’t get contaminated with the smell. Place the boxes on the ground and preferably start with two, then add more each time.
Make it a bit more difficult by removing the dog from the search area. Once the hot box is ready, bring the dog back in and cue “find it.”
When the dog is successfully finding the hot box, you may increase the challenge by having boxes with lids that are closed (but not tightly), or by using sacks with the tops folded over. Just use your imagination. Duffle bags or gym bags work well once the dog has shown that she loves to play the game.
Tips – be ready to dash in and “jackpot” the dog when she finds the goodies. (A jackpot is making a great fuss, giving a small handful of additional treats, and/or lavishing praise on the dog.). If your dog will search for her kibble, feed her a meal this way, but cooked chicken, hot dogs, or cheese work very well. If the dog has trouble on any particular find, make it easier by using fewer dummy boxes, by using smellier treats, or open up the containers more. Always end on an easy “find.” In multiple dog households, work one dog at a time so there is no competition or contest. When choosing containers, use ones that allow scent to escape. This is always a fun and positive experience. There is no “wrong” or “oops.” When the dog is getting pretty good at finding, do this in another room or add more distracting items that the dog may have to search around, like a chair, small table. Again, when the dog is proficient at finding, start to place the boxes up a little higher, not too high! Scents tend to sink, and you always want to set the dog up for success. Use your imagination!