I started re-reading Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson again this weekend. I’ll write a whole blog about how incredible this book is one day soon.
It’s my third time reading the book. I’ve purchased other copies to give as gifts to friends at least four times now. If you have a dog and you haven’t read this book, go spend the $20 to buy it. It’s more than 100 percent worth the read.
And a re-read, and another re-read, and perhaps some note taking too.
I refer to it as my “Canine Behavior Bible.”
Anyhow, in one of the early chapters, she recommends a game called hide and seek. It utilizes the dog’s natural instincts to search for food, and also stimulates the dog’s use of scenting with his nose.
As soon as I finished the section, I set the book down and grabbed down some treats.
I made Sensi sit just outside my bedroom door, so only his head could peek around, while I walked in and put a treat down. (By the way, this is also a great way to practice a solid sit-stay.)
I walked back to him, stopped a foot in front of him, paused a moment and then waved my arms forward, excitedly telling him: “Go get your treat!”
He ran into the room and picked it up. The first time, I made the treat’s placement rather obvious.
Each time we did this, I moved him a foot or two further down the hall from the bedroom and made the treat’s placement incrementally more difficult to find.
Warning to other dog owners: If you’re dog is not a quick learner — meaning, if you haven’t done a lot of positive reward training throughout his life — move more slowly than I did.
I can move rather fast with Sensi because he adapts beautifully to “figuring out mom’s training games.”
In the book, Donaldson writes at some point about how exciting it is to watch your dog start using his nose to find the treats.
And she is soooooo right. As I starting putting the treats in less and less obvious places, his sniffer turned on in high gear. He clearly traced my footsteps around the room until he landed at the treat.
After he got the hang of the game, I switched the treats for his tug-of-war toy. This time, the reward was a quick game of tug.
He caught on and loved it, which is great because tug of war doesn’t add any calories to his already thick body.
Outside by a campfire yesterday, I tried the game with treats again. It was infinitely harder for him to find the treats with all the outdoor scents, but he managed to locate the treat each time.
I am quite proud of him. We will continue with this game, likely several times a week for the rest of his life. I can’t believe I missed this suggestion the first and second times I read the book!
It’s low impact on me, and really good for him — not only mentally stimulating, but also satisfies his natural drive to locate prey. And it hones his tracking skills. And it strengthens his sit-stay. What a great bunch of benefits!
Before long, I’m sure I’ll be hiding treats and toys under couch cushions or other difficult places trying to stump him!