What is “find”? Well, it’s a super simple and easy behavior; lowering his or her head. Sometimes we see humans scratch theirs when we suggest this but it is much more natural for a dog to drop their head to the floor in the face of a stressful situation than to do a “sit/stay”; staring and worrying about the thing coming to get him or her.
It truly does not matter if your pooch is standing, sitting or lying down. We humans like to assume our dogs must “sit” before doing anything else; too many requests at the same time can confuse a dog. Say “find” or “find it”. Count to two then drop a treat on the ground right below his nose. We find using a dime size treat rather than a crumb works nicely for beginning this cue. Repeat the above two times.
Next, in the same space, say “find” while pointing to the ground. If your dog drops his or her head, “yes” and treat. Move to a random treat schedule quickly. When on earth would you use this? Well, glad you asked. We like to use “find” for barking. Let’s say your dog barks when the garage door opens, likes to join in when other dogs are barking outside the window or goes completely bonkers when the doorbell rings. Record those sounds on your phone (while your dog is on a walk so you do not record the barking). Next, play the sound as low as possible, if your dog barks, the sound is too high. Cue “find” the instant the sound comes on and reward! If your dog gets nervous about people coming in the door, stand nice and far away and practice your “find”. The further you are away from the scary person, the easier it will be for your dog to trust you will take care of the situation and drop his head to the floor. This also assumes you will not let the person accost your dog.
“Find” is also great for anxious dogs just as a stress reliever. If your dog is completely terrified of walks, do some “find” work before or after the walk so he or she builds confidence. Fun uses for “find”:
- Wait and “find cookie” with a couple treats or part of a meal strewn about the house.
- Hide and seek, kids love this!
- Naming toys and have your pup “find piggie”, works best if the toys are rotated so they are exciting!
- Muffin tin game: we prefer to start with one ball and one treat and hold onto the tin for super fraidy dogs so the movement does not startle them.
- Find Mom or Dad game, great for big familes!
When “find” is not appropriate:
- If there are two dogs in the house with no obedience.
- If there is any sign of guarding between the two dogs.
- Outside. Never toss food on the ground, you will only teach your dog it is fun to pick food up off the street. If you do “find” on a walk, the treat comes from the hand AFTER he or she lowers their head or place it on your shoe.
We like “find” because it is an easy behavior and if your dog is really stressed or has a lot to work on; this is a great foundation behavior. Sure, we also love “go to bed” when guests come over, but it is a more complex behavior and takes more time to work on.