Battersea Q&A: Teach your dog something new

Sniffer dog

(Q) Spring is in the air so I want to spend some time out and about with my dog. I'd like to teach her something a little bit different. Any ideas?

(A) Battersea canine welfare trainer Nathalie Ingham says: Everyone knows a dog has a much better sense of smell than us humans, but did you realise quite how much better? Our human noses have about six million olfactory receptor sites; some dog breeds, such as the Beagle, have more than 300 million! Whether you own a Beagle or another breed, you can maximise your dog's nose use and have some fun when you're on your next walk by teaching her to search.

Start by choosing a particular toy your dog really likes. Keep this away from her everyday toys and get it out for special play times. 

Motivate her by playing lots with the toy, then ask her to sit and stay while you put the toy further away from you - to begin with make sure she can still see the toy.

Send her to get the toy and make a big fuss of her when she does. Gradually make it slightly more difficult until your dog can't see where you've hidden the toy. After your training session put the toy away so that it retains its importance and value.

As your dog improves, ask somebody else to hide the toy and then send her to find it. You may need to help and encourage your dog to begin with, and remember, give lots of praise when she finds the toy.

If you're really keen you can use a particular scent, such as some vanilla essence, and place it by the toy so that you're teaching your dog to search for that particular scent.

If your dog isn't that motivated by toys, try some tracking. Use smelly food and move it along the ground in your garden in a straight line, not very far to begin with. Leave it at the end of the line as a reward for your dog. Start your dog near the beginning of the line and encourage her to sniff. She will pick up the scent and start to move forwards. Praise her as she's moving along and then allow her to eat the treats at the end. Make the trail longer and add in some turns as your dog picks up what to do!

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