A rough search; this is a great way to teach your dog to investigate, search and subsequently find things that you have put there, when out on a walk.   Much of this is achieved by the dog using it’s natural skills, particularly it’s nose, which is full of sensitive scent receptors.  This is incredibly rewarding for puppies/dogs and their people.  The sense of achievement and success is huge.  This can be done off lead if safe, or an extended lead or line if not. It is important not to hinder the dog if at all possible. One of the potential long term outcomes of this is that your dog learns to remain closer on a walk as it is really keen to “find” etc. and doesn’t want to miss out. Being with you is fun and engaging.

Click here for information about teaching retrieve/fetch.

On a rough search I start with a general walk, set out with a couple of puppy weight dummies and 2 rope toys in a poacher’s bag.  Keep another spare in your bag just in case.

While walking along you need to be constantly handling the dummies/rope toys in the bag so that they are really well scented. (Only the middle bit, the width of your hand so that the  your dog will hopefully target that part for a more effective and secure retrieve; most dogs will pick something up by the area that is most heavily scented).

Then find a good stretch of light to medium undergrowth, (depends on the experience, breed of the dog etc.), and without your dog noticing, drop them in at regular distances over a distance of about 50- 100 yds., usually with the first 2, which become the last 2 on the way back, closer together than the last 2 so that your dog will have a more significant chance of success, if the others are missed.

Then continue the walk for a time depending on the experience, age, etc. of your dog, as mentioned. Then walk back on the same route and watch your dog for any indication that it has noticed something out of the ordinary, i.e. not wildlife, not vegetation, in the location. Many will go straight in and investigate the smell; this is then accompanied by sincere encouragement from you, “what is it” etc. Do not use a praise word as this usually associated by most dogs as the end of an exercise or a retrieve word at this stage, as that would assume knowledge of what was expected from your dog.

If your dog retrieves it, brilliant, if not then this is shaped as this whole exercise develops, as does the introduction of command words etc.  Next time make it simpler by putting the dummy in a more obvious place next time.  You can also just throw one in to light undergrowth so that your dog finishes on a high.

Always ensure that your dog is downwind of anything dropped and that you are not between it and the dummy. The 2 close together that become the end are there to give your dog more of a target if the initial dummies/toys are missed. Also have an on and off word, such as, start/go and finish so that your dog knows when to stop being in “find” mode. It is useful to scuff grass slightly back from the undergrowth as a marker in line with where they are for you to remember where you dropped the dummies/toys, so that you know if your dog is in the right place and/or you can recover them later on if missed.