Dogs are naturally gifted when it comes to tracking and hunting, and these instincts are innate in every one of our four-legged friends, from tiny terriers to large Labradors.
Of course unless you actually encourage them to follow their noses and seek things out through training, they won’t really develop the skills on their own.
In the wild, their hunting abilities would be nurtured in part by their pack, so owners need to step in and fulfill this role themselves.
If you are eager to try out this type of training routine, here are some tips to make your pooch a perfect scavenger.
Start out with something familiar
While planning a scavenger hunt for humans is all about variety, and you can get inspired with these ideas, for dogs it is sensible to start off with a search for items and treats that they already know and love.
That might be their favorite toy, or it could be their most sought-after snack. Whatever it is, if a dog is familiar with it, they will be more inclined to indulge you and go along with the game.
Don’t hide the prize straight away
Putting the object that is being hunted out of sight is not going to help from the get-go. Instead you need to keep things simple in the beginning and simply place it in an area where the dog can both see and smell it simultaneously.
With the item in range of its main senses, give your chosen command to hunt, and allow the dog to seek it out. Repeat this as many times as you feel is necessary, so that the dog associates the action of retrieving the object with the command.
Once the premise of find-and-seek has been established with the treasure conspicuous to the dog, it’s time to bring some barriers into the mix.
Obscuring it behind an item of furniture or beneath a pillow, while still ensuring that it’s in the same room, then issuing the command to hunt, will up the ante without creating too much confusion.
And since dogs are one of the few animals that understand pointing, you can always use your index finger to give your pet a helping hand if the obstacles defeat it at first.
Expand the searchable area
The next step is a logical one; take the object to be hunted into a different room or an entirely different part of your home, then return to your dog and commence the hunt.
It is always worth following along with them at this point, as you can make it so that they are focused on the task and that they still understand what you expect of them.
Offer more incentives
The framework of the scavenger hunt game should be pretty set in the mind of your dog by this point, so now you can take things to the next level by squirreling away more items and incentives so that they have to look in more places.
As always, the best way to reinforce the game is to offer treats to the dog throughout, especially if it becomes apparent that they are not all that impressed by the items that they retrieve.
Last of all, when your dog is a scavenger hunting success, you can alter the way you reward their finds by giving treats when they discover the more interesting and out-of-the-way items, rather than rewarding them for every discovery.
Over time this could develop into a seriously fun game, as well as one which keeps your dog’s mind engaged and staves off boredom.