Canine hide and seek might sound like a bit of a laugh, but it stimulates an integral area of many dogs’ natural instincts such as scent tracking.
People lost in avalanches are only too glad that the St Bernard that finds them likes a good game of hide and seek, and now you can bond with your dog indoors or out come rain or shine, in this fun, obedience orientated and stimulating activity.
You’ll need a helper and a treat for this. Ensure that your dog is familiar with the stay command, otherwise this will be a very short game. Have your capable assistant ensure that your dog abides by the rules and stays put while you disappear just out of sight with a delicious treat tucked up your sleeve. The great thing about this game is that your dog always gets to win, a bonus for dogs that are a little low on confidence.
When you are sure that your dog is aware of your absence, he will probably be bursting to come and get his treat, have your assistant let him go. As you hear the sound of paws scrambling across the kitchen floor, begin issuing the command you want to use in the future. ‘Come and get me’ is as good as any. Your first hiding place should not be out of sight (in the bin for instance) so he gets the hang of the game sooner rather than later. If you plan to play this game a lot, make sure the treat you use is healthy. You will always be found and will always have to issue the treat, so avoid turning your winning hound into a ‘rolly poly’ ball of flab by keeping the meaty treats only for a spectacular performance.
When you feel the nudge of an excited nose on your face (or the whip of wagging tail depending on your position) be sure to issue lots of praise and reinforce the fact this is fun for both of you. You can extend the game a little at this stage by hiding the prize on your person rather than relinquishing it on sight of your pursuer. A squeaky toy tucked up the trouser leg can result in prolonged hilarity as your dog frantically tries to access it.
Return to the beginning of the process, but ensure that you hide further away, and a little more out of sight. Again, you will need the help of your assistant as you are now going to make your dog wait a painstaking two minutes before he is released. Issue the command before he is released this time, but ensure your assistant prevents any false starts. See how determined your dog is by hiding under a bundle of blankets. If he merely paws at you, you need to put in more work. You want your dog to be practically dragging these obstacles away from his prize.
Again return to step one, but have your assistant stay at a distance from your dog, only intervening if the cheating swine tries to get a sneaky peak at you before you are properly inserted into your hiding position. Make sure every time you play this you challenge your dog, otherwise it will become like going through the motions for him. But he won’t tell you this as he will want his treat nevertheless. Test his loyalty by breaking a doggy biscuit in half and hiding one piece on his route to finding you and keeping the other piece on your person. If you hear a sequence of ‘gallop, gallop, munch’ sounds, you will know were his priorities lie.
Incorporate obstacles into the game by closing doors and encouraging your dog to use his initiative. Also, moving the goal posts will keep your dog engaged. When the weather allows, hide outside and leave him to figure it out. Challenge your dog’s obedience by extending the amount of time he has to wait before he is allowed to come and find you.
Continue the game for as long as it is fun for both you and your dog, but make it interesting for both of you by introducing new challenges each time you play. Remember to praise your dog each and every time he finds you, this will avoid him associating the game with merely receiving a treat. For those of you who believe they have a little dog genius on their hands, try playing this game the other way round.
This article was reproduced from K9 Magazine, the lifestyle magazine for dog lovers which is available in both digital and print formats. You can get more at http://www.k9magazine.com
All content © K9 Media Ltd & K9 Magazine.
Ryan O'Meara is the chief executive of the Coalition For Improved Dog Ownership Standards www.cfidos.co.uk