All dogs have a great sense of smell, love to sniff and most of them can’t resist a tasty snack. Sprinkle treats on the floor and tell your dog to ‘find the sweeties!’. Pretty simple. Then try putting the treats somewhere just out of sight but in the same area. You could fill a box with scrunched up paper and sprinkle the treats in there, or put some in a bun tray and cover the holes with tennis balls so he has to nudge the balls off to find the sweeties. Fill a toilet roll tube with treats and cover the ends so he has to work out how to get the treats out. If he gets really good, go into a different room with your dog and hide treats under cushions, in corners, on tables and then release him to find them – hours of sniffy fun! Just remember how many you put out so you know when he’s found them all! Or - for the more creatively minded - make a snuffle mat like the one in the picture....
This game encourages both a lightning fast recall, since it makes coming when called a really fun game. Find a friend or family member to help (children love this one). Each of you gets a pocket full of treats. Start across the room from one another. One person calls the dog and rewards him with a treat, then the next person calls and rewards. Gradually increase the distance so that soon you're calling from different rooms, and then from all the way across the house or garden. The more your dog runs around the house, the better! You can increase the excitement your dog feels playing this game by calling to him and then starting to run away, so your recall is also a game of chase. While you’re playing you can also teach your dog the name of the person playing with you – when the dog is with you, say ‘go find daddy! (or whoever!’ as the other person calls them – they will soon learn to associate name and person and then you can up the game to ‘hide and seek’. The other person hides and the dog has to ‘go find daddy!’. This can be quite useful too – tuck a message into your dog’s collar and let your partner know what time dinners will be ready by dog-delivery!
Teaching a dog tricks is both fun and useful! It uses up loads of mental energy and is great for increasing your dog’s interest in working with you and opening them up to further training. Teaching a dog something like the crawl, or roll-over can also be very helpful when trying to get a dog dry after a walk - doing a high five or a wave can be shaped into pushing drawers and doors shut – you get the idea. If you get really keen you can put together a little sequence to music and impress the relatives at Christmas! There are loads of ideas out there in cyberspace, and lots of books to help you too – this one is particularly good.
Here’s a simple one to get you started:
The Crawl is a simple trick that requires patience by the handler but that looks really impressive when done correctly.
This is a great one to wear out kids and dogs at the same time… Dogs and puppies all have some level of inbuilt prey drive – it’s much more pronounced in terriers and dogs trained to find, flush out or actually kill small animals but nearly all dogs love a game of ‘catch the snake’. Luckily you don’t need an actual snake, just a long flexible item (e.g. soft toys/ fleecy tugs, lengths of rope) that will wriggle and dance when you shake it. Get down on your hands and knees, and entice your dog over to you by wriggling the toy along the floor – change the speed and direction, throw it, hide it behind your back, tie it to a piece of string and run all over the house – he should be desperate to get it and when he does, let him have a good tuggy game with it before starting again.