Find It!

This is my dog after a ten minute “Find It!” game!

I recently consulted with a fellow trainer, Michael Curran of Clicker Logic. Michael has a border collie who was highly reactive to both people and dogs. (As many of you know my dog, Loker, is reactive to other dogs and some people.) I asked Michael how he had such success with his dog and he gave me some wonderful advice.

My favorite part of his recommendations was the “Find it!” game. It is a simple game where you say “find it” and throw a treat on the ground. The dog then sniffs out the treat and eats it.

We had very quick success! Sounds simple, but doing this is about a lot more than just giving the dog a treat. After about 15 repetitions, my dog would immediately stop sniffing the bush or looking around for people or dogs and his nose would hit the ground looking for that treat! Even I was shocked by how quickly my dog stopped whatever he was doing and started sniffing for the treat!

We started right outside our apartment on cement and then we transferred over to the grass. Not too long after beginning the session a man was taking his dog out to potty about 60 ft away. Loker looked at the dog, then looked at me (thanks to previous Click the Trigger exercise). That was my cue to say “Yes”, walk the other way and get out of sight of the other dog, and continue this game to calm his mind.

So how can you use this with your dog?

The “Find It!” game gives your dog something to focus on – something other than his trigger. Begin indoors in a familiar area, by throwing a treat then saying “find it!” Be sure to say the words before you even reach for the treat so that your dog truly listens to your words instead of watching your actions. Remember outside he may be looking at something else so you want those words to click in his brain!

Repeat that about 15 times inside. Repeat another 15 times outside your home on cement. Then repeat 15 times just outside your home on grass. Make sure training sessions don’t last more than 10 minutes. Continue practicing in different areas with out distractions (as best as possible). By the time you come around some easy distractions, the words “find it!” should automatically trigger a search on the ground behavior from your dog. Keep working until you get a quick response around greater distractions. This is a fun activity that your dog will surely appreciate!