Assignment Two

Go Sniffing!

For this you’ll need your dog’s dinner, and six to ten containers. Empty yogurt cups, food storage tubs, coffee mugs, or even small paper plates all work well.

Split your dog’s meal between as many containers as you have. Keep the containers open if they have lids. Pick a room in your house with a door that you can close, or crate your dog so they can’t follow you and cheat. Go into this room without your dog, and find a few semi-hidden places to leave the containers.

Now go open the door. What does your dog do?

If they immediately hunt down the containers and clear them out right quick, then awesome: make the game harder for their next meal. Hide the containers out of sight, or put a smaller amount of food in each of them and play more than one round of the game.

If they aren’t sure what they should do, walk towards the first container. Don’t point or show it to them yet, just move toward it. Can they find it if you stand three feet away from it? If not, step a little closer. Let your dog stare at you for a minute, and wait to see if they start to use their nose. If there’s no action at all but you’re both just staring lovingly into each others’ eyes, nudge the container with your foot. Oh hey, how’d that get there? Funny, it’s got your dinner in it. Maybe you should eat it.

Once they’ve devoured their prize, move in the direction of the next container. Look at it, but don’t say anything or move quickly. Stop a few feet away and wait. Can they find it? If yes, move even slower towards the next container, and stop even further away. If your dog is still having trouble finding things on their own, that’s fine—just repeat the first step, moseying towards the next find, waiting to see if they’ll use their nose, and finally nudging the container with your foot if they really seem confused.

You may have to play this game a couple times with some dogs. Others will get it right away. Observe your dog, and dial the complexity to what they seem to enjoy most.