Teaching Your Pet a SEARCH FUN Game During COVID-19 Isolation

Here is a the first step to teaching your pet (any pet, not just dogs) a SEARCH FUN game. This “game” is fun to play with your pet during the COVID-19 isolation period, but it’s also a game you can play outdoors and can be a useful skill in some cases (e.g. you can use this to get your pet to help you find a glove or set of keys you may have dropped somewhere).

Your pet is likely getting a little stressed by the changes in routine, the lack of usual rest, or lack of mental stimulation if the pet is stuck indoors for long periods. You are likely experiencing similar stress. This SEARCH FUN game will provide you and your pet with endless ideas for future play sessions. The game becomes more advanced as you and your pet excel.

SEARCH FUN:

STAGE ONE: TEACHING THE CUE (“SEARCH!”)

  • Begin this training in a low-distraction environment (e.g. indoors) then work up to a medium distraction environment (e.g. in the yard), and then try it in a high distraction environment (e.g. in a park with wildlife and all sorts of smells and sounds). 
  • Back up to at an easy stage when you first try it in a higher distraction environment.
  • Be sure your pet has mastered each step before advancing to the next step. If your pet starts to have difficulty at a step, move back to an easier step for your pet and spend more time there before advancing to the next step.
  • Do NOT repeat the “Search” cue. You can encourage your pet by saying something like “Find it” but do not repeat the word “Search!” 
  • Do NOT make it too difficult for your pet. Don’t make it too easy, but don’t make it too hard. Baby steps. Repetition. This is what builds the skills so your pet can perform in more difficult situations.
  • If you’ve made it too hard, and your pet is looking like he/she is starting to get too frustrated/stressed or starting to give up, then you can give a little help (perhaps pointing). But then remember this lesson and try to never make it too hard again. Your pet needs to be able to do this skill independently and you won’t be able to help once your pet advances to searching for a scent. 
  • Keep the training sessions (the game) very short — never more than a couple minutes. ALWAYS end the session BEFORE your pet wants to end it. Stop if you notice signs of boredom, stress, or too much distraction. 
  • Don’t play this game too often each day. Play it every day or so to keep your pet’s skills sharp, but don’t play it too often that your pet loses motivation. Keep your pet wanting more. Perhaps no more than one or two sessions a day.
  • If your pet is VERY motivated by a special toy, you can use that toy instead of the piece of food in the instructions, BUT reserve that toy for just the SEARCH FUN game. 

TO BEGIN: 

You will need several pieces of yummy food. (NOTE: you can use a high value toy instead, but reserve that toy for just the SEARCH FUN game.) The food pieces should be large enough for your pet to see easily and small enough to eat in one bite or so. Smellier treats will leave more of a scent and can make this game easier to learn for your pet.

Step A. 

Hold your pet’s collar (or harness), and let your pet see you toss a small piece of food about 5 feet away. Make sure your he/she can easily see where the food has landed. Your pet should be wanting to get the piece of food. Say a specific word or phrase you want to use only for this game (e.g. “Search!”) and within one second of saying the word, release your pet to get the piece of food you tossed. NOTE: Choose a word that you will only use for the searching game. Practice a few more times, but make it a little bit harder each time by tossing it a bit farther away. Make sure your pet is able to succeed.

To be continued…

Contact me you are interested in the remaining steps.

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