Can you train a dog to search past food?

Of course  you can.

Start with extremely low value distractors.  Think ‘no value to my dog.’  Place whatever you use in a sturdy box, to eliminate access to the goodie.  A spice packet (nothing that smells like the target odors, of course!), a scented candle, a new (non-slobbered) toy.  Do a couple of short, fun searches, reward like crazy.

Over the next few days or weeks, s-l-o-w-l-y increase the value of the distraction:  a energy bar wrapper, stale bread, then a slightly slobbered-upon toy, half a slice of fresh bread, then part of a muffin.

I keep all of those searches short & fun.  No high stress checks of several dozen varied containers.  Amy Cook (certified dog behavior consultant) said ‘every time you teach your dog something new, you teach him how to feel.’  I want my pups to feel GREAT! about searching, about passing food as they work, and about nose work in general.

As you up the level of distractions, when the dog passes odor and hits the hot box, REWARD, REWARD, REWARD!!  You *cannot* pay enough  And praise ‘holy cow!  you are the smartest, most talented, most amazing dog in the world! no! in the universe!’  Because they are.

Here’s a short video of Toka doing 2 searches past chicken scraps.  In the first, they’re in a clam-shell muffin container (there’s a muffin wrapper in it, too), then they and the wrapper are in an open container.

I use his lunch as his rewards.  Yum!  Notice how long he gets to chow down after passing the chicken in the open container.  (Click on green words to reach video)

Toka searches past chicken scraps


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