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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Training Steps: Find It

Dakota: Show Me Dog Command Pose
You wouldn't believe how many comments/emails I get asking for more information on our game of "Find It". I am truly surprised that I haven't written an article on the game as it not only helps keep hunting dogs from getting bored during days that they can't play outside but also helps hone-in on their instinct to hunt.

Now we aren't a hunting family. Rather, we are a family that understands the acute sense of hunting instinct that is automatic with almost every Labrador Retriever. They are sporting dogs after all and therefore it is a shame to keep them from feeling like they are earning their keep. Yes, my friends, most Labs are only truly happy when they used their innate hunting skills and sense of smell. Using the "Find It" game will help any Lab dog owner and lover to use up some of that Lab energy while keeping them mentally stimulated.

The Game: Find It
The Rules: Hide It

How to Play

1) Introducing your pup to the game - Start by leaving a bread crumb trail for your pup to follow. The pieces of kibble should be laid in a single room while the pup is tucked away in another. They should be in line of sight and on the floor level only. Once the pup is brought back into the room, lead the pup to the kibble and use the words "find it" when they find and eat the kibble. This will get them used to the command and learn the reward. Remember to praise as they find each piece by using a slightly higher pitched tone but don't make it too distracting because you want them to find the other pieces of kibble.

2) Bring it up a notch - When you pup becomes accustomed to finding the pieces of kibble on the floor and you know this is getting way too easy, start leaving pieces in other rooms on the floor and lead the pup to the room the kibble is in. Don't point it out, just let them know the space has expanded. When they are released from the original holding room, tell them to "find it" and lead them to the first room. Remember to praise and make it into a game.

3) As your pup gets faster at finding it at floor level, you can start to expand your hiding places to include any place they can see and reach. Then you will move to places they cannot see or reach and so on.

Once you get good at this, you can start to hide their morning bowls of kibble at high places or tucked away. Some of our hiding places now include closets (with the doors closed by on the floor so they can sniff under the door), on top of dressers, on top of the fridge, and so on. If the kibble is out of reach, they will let out a single bark to tell us they found it, sit nicely, and when I say "show me", they will look at the point where it is to lead me to where they cannot get to it.

This is a progressive game so you must start with the breadcrumb trail to let them both see and smell the kibble before getting to the point where you can hide it in closets. Just remember to use keyword training phrases, such as "Find It" and "Show Me" when using this training method so you can just give the command and let your Labrador Retriever do the hunting.



Blogger Beth said...

Shannon - Gracie and I have been playing find it the last few nights and having great fun. It's been a fun indoor activity for us since we are experiencing several days of extremely hot weather (at least by Oregon's standards). My twist the game. I make her wait on the back deck while I set the trail and payload. I tell "don't peek!" But I can see her face pressed against the window watching my every move!

August 15, 2008 5:16 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

That is great! I just love playing with them when they play "Find It". It is fun for me too... watching them go crazy while they wait and then watching their hurried walk around the house with their noses in the air.

As the game gets easier for Gracie, start making it harder and she will never get bored.

Lab smiles,

August 16, 2008 3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We play 'find it' with toys! When it's really hot, I play fetch with my boys in the basement. At the end, they are left by the stairs in a sit-stay, while I go into the family room and hide the toy each dog was using. Then, I go back and release them. they love this game!! Of course, they get another throw to retrieve for a reward!!


September 03, 2008 6:19 AM  

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