You could have your dog find anything. Treats or a toy work well. The reason I taught Ace this game was to challenge him to search for an object rather than play fetch where my dog obsesses over a ball.
To teach Ace “find it,” I had him sit outside in a baseball field. There were pieces of litter scattered around, and I picked up one piece of paper the size of a gum wrapper. I held it in front of him and said “smell.” At this point he had no idea what that meant but he naturally smelled it. Then I told him to stay and walked about 30 feet out and randomly walked in zig-zags and discretely dropped the paper so he didn’t know when or where.
I walked back to Ace, released him and said, “Find it!”
Since Ace is naturally a retriever, he immediately went to work searching for this piece of paper, first making big circles and then gradually targeting in on where he smelled the paper. He found it within a minute or two and brought it to me. At this point he was already becoming fixated on the paper, so we ended our game. Since then, I’ve played “find it” with Ace once or twice every day on our walks using a random piece of trash like a bottle or piece of plastic. Since it’s pretty easy for him, I’ve been making it more difficult by burying the object in the sand or hiding it on playground equipment or in a bush.
The game doesn’t have to be played outside. Try teaching your dog to find a treat by making it really easy at first. It’s OK if she sees where you put it until she gets the hang of it. Once she figures out the game, you can make it more challenging.
Have you played “find it” or a similar game with your dog?
(Image from flickr.com)