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Training Your Dog to “Find It”: A Fun and Useful Game for Mental Stimulation

Training Your Dog to “Find It”: A Fun and Useful Game for Mental Stimulation

Playing the game "Find It" with your dog provides great mental stimulation and enhances the bond between you and your canine companion. This game taps into your dog's natural scavenging instincts and keeps their brain active as they search for hidden treats or toys. Some key benefits of playing Find It include:

  • Improves scent work and nose skills. Searching for hidden items boosts your dog's sense of smell and their ability to use their nose effectively. This can be especially beneficial for breeds prone to following scents like Beagles and Bloodhounds.

  • Provides mental exercise. Seeking out treats or toys requires focus and problem solving skills. This gives your dog's brain a workout, keeping them mentally sharp. The mental challenge can help tire them out, similar to physical exercise.

  • Reinforces training. The game builds on keywords like "find it" that you can use to direct your dog during the search. This strengthens their understanding of commands.

  • Creates positive associations. Your dog will come to associate the games with rewards which motivates them to play. It's also a fun bonding activity for you and your dog.

  • Low energy entertainment. "Find It" can provide your dog entertainment and mental stimulation without requiring high energy like a long walk or run. This makes it a great rainy day activity option.

How to Teach Your Dog to "Find It"

Teaching your dog to "find it" utilizes their natural foraging abilities. With some simple training, you can teach your dog to seek out hidden objects when you give them the "find it" cue. Here are some tips for training:

  • Start with high-value treats. Use a special treat your dog loves during initial training as a reward for finding the object. This could be small pieces of chicken, hot dog, cheese or favorite wet food.

  • Show them the treat. Let your dog see you hiding the treat. At first, make it very easy for them to find it – hide it under a towel with the treat slightly peeking out.

  • Give the cue. Say "find it!" then encourage your dog to seek out the treat. Praise and reward with the treat when they investigate and find it.

  • Increase difficulty slowly. Gradually make the hiding places more obscure – under pillows, behind furniture, buried in a blanket pile. Move up to two hiding places at once.

  • Introduce new search items. Once your dog understands the game, switch out treats for favorite toys to find. You can also have them seek out specific objects on cue like "find your ball!"

  • Make sure they succeed. Keep earlier searches easy to boost your dog's confidence. Dogs love having jobs so set your dog up for success!

Best Places to Hide Items for "Find It"

The key to a successful game of "find it" is choosing creative hiding spots. Here are some great places to conceal your dog's favorite treats or toys:

  • Under blankets or towels then layered under pillows or cushions. Start easy then add more layers.

  • Inside cardboard boxes or paper bags – dogs love ripping these open!

  • Behind furniture like under chairs or sofas. Increase difficulty by putting treats behind table legs.

  • Buried in piles of stuffed animals, shoes or blankets. Add layers to dig through.

  • Inside cabinets, drawers, baskets or storage bins your dog can open.

  • Under plastic cups lined up in a row. Your dog will learn to lift each cup in search.

  • In a food puzzle toy like a Kong or snuffle mat for extra mental challenge.

  • Outside around bushes, trees or under patio furniture cushions.

  • In another room so your dog has to travel further to search.

Go ahead and get creative with your hiding spots! Just be sure to watch your dog during the game in case they try to tear into unsafe areas.

How to Play "Find It" with Multiple Dogs

The "find it" game can be a fun search activity for multi-dog households too. Here's how to play:

  • Have dogs sit and stay while you hide items. Prevents fighting over treats.

  • Hide more treats than you have dogs. Each dog should get rewarded.

  • Hide treats in easy-to-access locations to prevent resource guarding of prime spots. Up high, behind chairs, etc.

  • Use separate search cues like "Fido, find it!" Then have the other pups search on their cues.

  • Make sure each dog succeeds. Hide treats they can each easily reach near their beds, bowls, etc.

  • Avoid having dogs search in the same room. Close doors to rooms with treats for a specific dog.

  • Reward with praise when they find the treat. No need to show other dogs.

  • Keep sessions short to prevent anxiety if other dogs find treats first. Do separate rounds.

  • Monitor dogs closely. Stop the game if dogs become possessive over discovered treats.

Start off easy, go at your dogs' pace, and make sure each pup gets rewarded. With patience, "find it" can become a rewarding group activity!

Making "Find It" More Challenging

Once your dog has mastered the basics of "find it", you can increase the challenge in various ways:

  • Add more hiding spots. Start with 5-10 then work up to 20-30 potential hiding places.

  • Hide smaller treats or objects. This forces your dog to search thoroughly using their nose.

  • Use higher value rewards for tough spots. A special treat motivates them to work harder.

  • Hide toys based on odor, not sight. Your dog learns to rely on their nose more.

  • Have "distractor" toys out in the open. This tests your dog's focus on the search task.

  • Increase distance. Hide treats in another room or on another floor of your home.

  • Get creative with concealment. Bury treats in a blanket fort or hide in a tissue box under towels.

  • Hide treats outside. Natural smells make outside searches more challenging. Start in a small area in your yard or on your patio.

  • Add verbal cues. Assign certain words to certain locations like "cold" for refrigerator or "couch" for under sofa cushions.

  • Hide treats while your dog watches but can't reach. Increases motivation and memory skills.

Ramp up the difficulty level slowly based on your individual dog's progress. Keep training sessions fun and be sure to praise your pup for working hard!

Making Your Own "Find It" Search Boxes

You can create your own personalized "find it" search boxes for indoor play. Here's how to make them:

Supplies Needed:

  • Cardboard box or plastic storage container with lid
  • Scissors or box cutter
  • Assorted soft treats like cheese, hot dogs, chicken
  • Food puzzle toys
  • Blankets, towels, paper for stuffing box

Directions:

  • Choose a box big enough for your dog to access but not climb inside. Cut entry holes on multiple sides.
  • Place treats, toys and soft stuffing material randomly throughout box. Top with lid.
  • Let your dog watch you place a few initial treats inside so they're motivated to play.
  • Give your "find it" cue and allow your dog to sniff out treats through the entry holes.
  • Once your dog succeeds, add more toys and treats to refresh the box for next time.

You can make multiple search boxes and vary the level of difficulty. Getting to tear into the box and rip up paper or blankets provides your dog enrichment too! Rotate boxes to keep the searches exciting.

Safety Tips for Playing "Find It"

While a fun game for you and your dog, here are some tips to keep "find it" safe:

  • Supervise during play. Make sure your dog doesn't get into anything harmful if searching unattended.

  • Avoid hiding in dangerous areas. Keep out of reach of electrical cords, chemicals, medications, trash, etc.

  • Don't hide treats or toys of risk for blockages or choking if consumed rapidly.

  • Remove collars and tags that could snag during exuberant digging.

  • Wash hands after handling treats. Don't hide human food due to diet needs.

  • Take care around furniture. Don't allow chewing or digging that could damage belongings.

  • Watch for obsessive behavior. If your dog can't self-limit, manage the game carefully.

  • Keep challenging, not frustrating. Adjust difficulty based on your individual dog's ability.

  • Prevent resource guarding. Teach dogs to "leave it" so searches don't create aggression over treats.

With some common sense precautions, you can safely enjoy "find it" for years of play and quality time with your dog!

Fun Ways to Use "Find It" When Traveling or Visiting with Your Dog

The "find it" game travels well, providing your dog needed activity when visiting new places. Fun ways to play while on trips:

  • Play in your hotel room. Scatter treats under blankets and in corner nooks upon arrival to acclimate your dog.

  • Search new yards or outdoor spaces. Have your dog seek out treats in friend's backyards, holiday rental properties, parks, etc.

  • Explore pet friendly stores. Many home and garden stores permit leashed dogs. Hide treats along safe aisles and display shelves.

  • Car searches. Stop at a rest area and hide treats around the car, under seats, in cargo areas, etc. Great for long road trips.

  • Campsite hunts. Let your dog sniff out treats at your campsite to familiarize themselves with the smells and layout.

  • Treat trails. Drop treats along your walking route to encourage your pup to stick close on hikes in new areas.

  • Hunt for "vacation only" toys. Special travel-only toys make the game feel fresh.

The mental stimulation will help relax an anxious or excited dog in new environments. Just be sure to get property owner permission if playing the game in locations that don't belong to you. Happy travels!

Related Games and Activities to "Find It"

If your dog loves seeking out hidden treats, expand the fun with these related games:

Nosework – Uses your dog's scenting ability to hunt for specific essential oil scents rather than foods or toys. Teaches disciplined scent detection.

Hide and Seek – Have family members "hide" then call your dog to come find them for praise and treats. Fun indoors or outdoors.

Treat under Cup Shuffle – Place treats under plastic cups then shuffle them around. Your dog noses each cup lifing with paws to find the reward.

Digging Pit – Bury treats in containers of sand, dirt or straw for your dog to enthusiastically unearth.

Treat Dispensing Toys – Toys that randomly dispense treats keep your dog engaged in long solo play sessions. Great boredom busters!

Snuffle Mats – Felt mats you hide treats and kibble in that dogs must root through with their nose and paws.

All these games tap into your dog's natural foraging skills for extra mental enrichment. Rotate through them or do mini sessions of several for well-rounded play time.

Final Tips for "Find It" Success

In closing, here are a few final tips to ensure an enjoyable "find it" experience:

  • Vary search areas regularly – indoors, backyards, different rooms, etc. to keep it exciting.

  • Practice short, frequent sessions – 5 to 10 minutes several times a day. Better than one prolonged session.

  • Adjust difficulty based on your dog's enthusiasm and activity level that day.

  • End on a positive note after a successful find to keep your dog motivated.

  • Give bonus treats for tenacious searching in tough spots.

  • Use known commands like "sit" and "stay" to structure the game.

  • Phase treats out slowly over time so your dog transitions to searching for toys only.

  • Be energetic and excited yourself when giving "find it" cues. Your dog will feed off it!

With patience and creativity, the "find it" searching game can provide endless engagement for both you and your favorite canine companion. So grab some treats and get playing!

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