Hide and go seek is one of our favorite foundation games to play with young scent dogs. When the dog finds you, it’s very important to give multiple rewards to keep the dog with you. Otherwise, dogs tend to play keep away (getting close, but not letting you catch them).
Warm up with restrained recalls. Stay close so it’s easy. Tease and encourage the dog while you run away. This builds frustration and drive. Once released, your dog should run to you at top speed.
If that goes well, move about the same distance, but out of sight. If your dog has trouble finding you, use verbal encouragement, coughing, clapping or make noises to help.
Gradually increase distance, and the amount of time you’re out of sight. At first your dog will use some spatial memory, vision, and hearing to find you, in addition to scent. But don’t worry about that: reward when the dog finds you, no matter what method you believe they used. Never expect your dog to close his eyes. Over time and with careful planning, dogs should learn that scenting is the most reliable method, and use it more.
This video shows Lula playing hide and go seek at the age of 14 weeks, off leash with no collar, in a safe new location. In the final repetition, I called her into a separate room with the lights off. If it’s safe, let the dog drag a line without a handle. This helps to prepare for times when the leash is accidentally dropped and you don’t want your dog to panic if they’ve never experienced dragging the leash before. Also practice with your helper running behind the dog on a longline.
For more experienced dogs, try:
* run away silently,
* add a cue before releasing the dog,
*vary the human to be found,
*mix up the rewards (don’t only use food),
*increase search time, and
*play at new locations where you can hide up high (in a tree) or down low (in deep grass).
It should always be fun, so introduce one small challenge at a time.
Join our Scent Detection Foundation online course to transform your naughty dog into a partner that wants to work with you, and get answers to all of your questions:
Or sign up for our classes in Calgary: https://www.kayennakennels.ca/engagement-for-dogsports.