Coronavirus Crazy Times at Peaceable Paws 7


Welcome to Peaceable Paws!

What better time to resurrect my long-lost blog efforts than during coronavirus self-isolation? I know that many of you are also shut in with your dogs – so you might actually have time to read a blog or two as well!! I realize how fortunate I am to be “stuck” on our 80-acre farm with our dogs and other animals (it’s not like I spend a lot of time on city streets anyway) as opposed to shut up in an apartment somewhere . But Peaceable Paws is completely shut down for now, and I do miss the interaction with my students in classes and academies, and my seminars are cancelled at least through June, if not longer. I was looking forward to a seminar-trip to Alberta, Canada next month with my husband, and several other trips around the country this summer – but of course that all pales in the face of what’s going on in today’s world.

Many of my trainer-friends are doing on-line video consults and classes – and kudos to them! The downside of our rural home is that we are on satellite internet – it is very slow, and we have limited data use each month, so I just can’t. I am offering phone consults, which I don’t normally do… and so far no one has taken me up on it. So – I’m already a couple of months ahead on my Whole Dog Journal articles, and we’re getting lots of work done around the farm – planting flowers, cutting down dead and invasive trees (d*** those Chinese Tree of Heaven!!!), and seeing lots of wildlife – 30 deer in the lower pasture the other day, 5 turkeys in the woods, and a blue heron sailing overhead this morning.

To bring you up to speed on the Miller family… our companion animal population has significantly decreased from more than 20 total at one time, to just 10 now – two dogs, three cats, four horses and one pig. For a family that has until recently had as many as five dogs at once, two seems like… nothing. Each time we lose one, Paul says, “It hurts too much to lose them, let’s not get anymore.” And I remind him that I’m a dog trainer and I have to have dogs. So we currently have Kai (Kaizen – meaning “positive change”), our 6-year-old Australian Kelpie, and Sunny (Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows) our two-year-old Pomskimo (Pomeranian/American Eskimo – we think). Next blog – the stories of how they came to us.

Sunny and Kai are doing fine – they still get to do barn chores,  we can still hike on the farm (and everything is blooming, so it’s beautiful right now!), and they are accustomed to having me home (although Dad’s home all the time now too, so that’s a little different).

I know that many of you don’t have as many options for exercise for your canine companions – so I want to share one of my favorite indoor games for dogs: “Search.” It’s fun, it’s easy, they get to use their noses (which most dogs love), and it’s tiring. Because dogs’ noses are so good, many people don’t realize that it is still very tiring for them to do scent work. So if your dog can’t get out and run around right now as much as she is accustomed to, maybe this will help!

SEARCH

“Search” involves teaching your dog to look for and find hidden objects when you ask him to. This is an exceptionally useful game as it uses lots of energy and can tire out your very active dog, plus has very practical applications as well. We start with treats, since most dogs will happily look for food. You can eventually ask him to look for hidden objects (favorite toys, your lost keys) and even hidden or missing humans!

Here’s how to start:

Step 1:

  1. Have your dog sit and stay. (If he doesn’t know sit/stay, have someone hold his leash).
  2. Walk six feet away, show him a treat, remind him to stay, and place the treat on the ground.
  3. Return to his side (don’t let him get up yet!), turn and face the treat, then tell him “Search!” (If he won’t get up until you release him from the say “Search!” and then give your release cue.) He should run right out and eat the treat.
  4. Repeat a half-dozen times.

Step 2:

  1. Have your dog sit and stay.
  2. Let him watch you “hide” a treat in plain view (next to a chair leg, by a waste basket, etc.).
  3. Return to his side (don’t let him get up!), turn and face the treat, then tell him “Search!” He should run right out and eat the treat.
  4. Repeat a half-dozen times.

Step 3:

  1. Have your dog sit and stay.
  2. Let him watch you hide several treats in plain view.
  3. Return to his side (don’t let him get up!), turn and face the treats, rub one of the treats you’re using on a paper towel, hold the towel in front of his nose (don’t let him eat it!) and tell him “Sniff!” (Don’t worry if he doesn’t appear to sniff it.)
  4. Then tell him “Search!” He should run right out and eat the treats.
  5. Repeat a half-dozen times, having him “Sniff” before each set.

Step 4:

  1. Have your dog sit and stay
  2. Let him watch you hide a treat in a harder place (behind a chair leg, etc.)
  3. Return to his side (don’t let him get up!), turn and face the treat, do “Sniff!”, then tell him “Search!” He may have more difficulty finding this treat. Don’t help him! This is where he starts learning to use his nose. If you help him, he won’t use his nose. If he truly can’t find it, reset, and hide it in an easier spot. Make sure he watches you!
  4. Repeat a half-dozen times.
  5. Gradually hide the treat in harder places, having “Sniff” before each set.

Step 5:

  1. Have your dog sit and stay
  2. Let him watch you hide 2-3 treats in somewhat easy places (behind a chair leg, etc.)
  3. Return to his side (don’t let him get up!), turn and face the treats, then tell him “Search!” He may have more difficulty finding multiple treats. If necessary, indicate an area by spreading your arms and saying “Search here!” Don’t point to the treat! This is where he starts learning to use his nose. If you help him, he won’t use his nose. If he truly can’t find it, reset, and hide it in a slightly easier spot. Make sure he is watching you!
  4. Repeat a half-dozen times.
  5. Gradually hide treats in harder spots, having “Sniff” each time before you send him.

Step 6:

  1. Put your dog in another room.
  2. Hide 2-3 treats in somewhat easy places.
  3. Bring him back to the room, have him “Sniff!” then tell him “Search!” He may have more difficulty finding multiple treats. If necessary, indicate an area by spreading your arms and saying “Search here!” Don’t point to the treat! This is where he starts learning to use his nose. If you help him, he won’t use his nose. If he truly can’t find it, reset, and hide it in a slightly easier spot. Make sure he is watching you!
  4. Repeat a half-dozen times, doing “Sniff” each time.
  5. Gradually hide treats in harder spots.

Step 7:

  1. Generalize his “Search” behavior to other objects as you desire, starting with a favorite toy. Rub the toy on the paper towel, and proceed as your dog needs. Start back at Step 1, placing the toy in plain view and move quickly through to Step 6.
  2. Then use less favorite or neutral objects. For humans, rub the human’s scent on the by having them rub it on their neck, and then have them hide – easy at first (let the dog find them in plain view, then watch them hide behind a barrier, or around a corner, then through Step 6.)

HAVE FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!

Note: This process is a “Smell this smell, find this smell,” protocol, and is used to find missing persons, pets, etc., who each have a unique odor. Nosework™ uses specific scent” detection – searching for a specific scent that the dog has learned to look for (ie: drug detection dogs). For Nosework resources go to: http://www.k9nosework.com/about-us/what-k9-nose-work

There are lots of other fun things you can do with your dog while you are confined – the Internet is overflowing with suggestions from force- free trainers for dog-friendly enrichment activities to keep you both active. Next blog, along with Kai and Sunny’s stories – how to  make an indoor agility course with household items.

Meanwhile – until this is over and we are back to whatever will serve as our future normal – please stay home, stay safe, and stay well! 


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7 thoughts on “Coronavirus Crazy Times at Peaceable Paws

  • Rebecca Ruggiero

    During this time, I’ve been cleaning the basement (like so many others!) and discovered a stash of Whole Dog Journal printed magazines from the early 2000s. I was so pleased to re-read your training articles (one of the articles described your daily routine with your pack of five dogs!). What fun to discover that you are still active in training dogs and writing helpful articles, and that The Whole Dog Journal is still being published. Thank you for all you’ve done over the years to help dog owners learn about, enjoy, and improve their relationships with their dog(s). Stay safe and healthy during this time!

    • Pat Miller Post author

      Yes – we are still here after all these years! I’ve also published 7 books since 2000, and moved to Fairplay, Maryland via Chattanooga, Tennessee. You stay safe and well too!!

  • Liz Clark

    This is one of the bright spots then, your blog re-starting. Thank you so much for your [always] great advice. I think I have every one of your books and have gifted many of the “Foster” books to the foster group with which I have been volunteering. Your Find game reminds me of my previous dog’s love of this very game. She could wait in the entrance hall for us to hide something and upon release would run her nose along the rug. Probably tracing our scent to get to the treat. One time, when her search was taking a bit longer, my husband asked where I hid the treat and when I whispered “in the kitchen” Maggie turned on a dime and ran in there. More proof that dogs understand many human words.

    • Pat Miller Post author

      Thanks Liz!! And yes – dogs are much more cognitive than they’ve long been given credit for. My long ago wonderful Josie was a superstar at finding our turtles when they got lost. I never trained her – but one day one of the tortoises was missing, and I just stood in the middle of the yard and said to myself “where is the turtle?” Josie ran to a spot in the fence and stood there. I didn’t realize what she was telling me – I just kept walking around looking. And then I said it again and she ran to the same spot. (I’m sure she was thinking “Duh – humans are so slow!!”) I went over to where she was and sure enough, the turtle had fallen down between the fence and the retaining wall. I *never* would have found him without her – he would have died there. Dogs are just… wonderful.