To increase Shyla's toy drive, I've recently done some unorthodox things like asking her to briefly tug a toy with me before I put her food bowl down for her to eat a meal. The idea is to "transfer the value" of food to tugging her toy, by closely associating them. It seems to be working beautifully.
I often toss her toy as part of our play, and she retrieves it, just like in the photo below. This morning, it was 9°F but I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of our frosty world that I wanted to stay out and play/train with Shyla all day! All of our training is centered around playing so it's fun!
In this course, the goal is very simple. We want to teach our dogs to find a certain scent and to "alert" on it to tell us that the scent is there. We've focused on containers, one of which has scent in it. We took baby steps over the past 5 weeks to teach the dogs to hold their nose on the container with the scent. The underlying method was that the dogs got "paid" in the form of treats and praise whenever they identified and held their nose on the scent. It is purely positive training - no reprimands ever!
I made a video of each of our dogs doing nosework yesterday. They've come a very long way from being pure novices 5 weeks ago. Just to prep you for the video, there are 11 boxes on the floor, one of which contains 3 q-tips with birch scent on them. The dog needs to find the box with the scent and keep their nose on that box to alert me.
You can see that the dogs LOVE this game. In fact, a week ago, R got so excited about finding the scent that he pounced on the box and destroyed it! I had to do some rudimentary work to teach him to curb his enthusiasm!
We also have done what are called "interior searches", where I hide a small tin containing birch scent anywhere in one room. The tin has a magnet so I can hang it from metal things, like the metal legs on our kitchen stools. I tell the dog to "search" which tells the dog to find the scent somewhere in the room. When the dog finds the scent, she plants her nose as close to the source as she can. That has also been super fun, and it will be our next nosework video!
If you feel like learning something new with your dog, I highly recommend the Fenzi courses. You can take them quite inexpensively if you want. I took the nosework one as a "bronze" student, and it was only $65. I think that's a great value for how much we learned.
My hope is that nosework training will help keep R sane during the sedentary recovery from his upcoming elbow surgery.