Thursday, August 25, 2011

Command Clinic: Find it

I taught Elka "find it" one day when she was still somewhat small, and I was home from work with a headache.  Of course, "home from work" is not "home from puppy who desperately needs to be occupied", and I racked my poor brains for something to do with her.

She brought me Gumby for the umpteenth time, and there was a folded dish towel within eye sight.  A connection was made, and a cue was born!

Now, to that point, I had already been "naming" Gumby when we played with him, but I didn't know 100% that Elka knew that toy was Gumby.  By naming, I mean when she brought me the toy to play with, I would say things like "You brought me Gumby! What a good girl!"  Same thing if I tossed the toy for her to go get.

So, back to the towel and the Gumby.  I set Gumby on the floor, with a "leave it", as Elka watched.  Then I took the towel and put it over Gumby.  Then I said, theatrically, "Where's Gumby?  Can you find it?"  Elka cocked her head, and then pounced fully on the towel enshrounded Gumby, pawed it off, picked Gumby up, and shoved it at me again.  I said "Good girl! You found him!" I don't think we need to discuss here whether dogs can conjugate verbs; I suppose I could have said "Good find" for the same effect.  She backed off, and looked at me, and we did it again.  At about the fourth time, when I said "Where's Gumby? Can you find him?"  Elka looked at the towel on the floor, looked at me, and also theatrically (if I may be so bold), went to a different part of the living room, and looked at the couches, and then on the floor, and then came back to Gumby-Under-Towel and took the towel off with one confident swipe of her paw.  We had our party about how good she was, and called it quits for then.  She went and laid down for a nap.

After a few more sessions like that, I could put Elka in the kitchen in a "down stay", and go to the living room to hide Gumby somewhere.  Gumby hidden, the next step is "Okay, find Gumby!" and she bounds off to find the toy.  She can and will find Gumby if I don't know where it is, in fact.  So, we're slowly adding other things, like Jim's wallet, or an Altoids tin.  the Altoids are for the nosework fun of it; "Sweet birch oil" is frequently used on the beginning levels of nosework (or at least that's my understanding), and Wintergreen is similar enough I feel fine substituting it.  That, and Elka seems to use her eyes more than her nose, so to get that schnozz working is purely for fun; she won't win any tracking awards.


  1. What fun! I may have to try a Gumby with Kyuss.. so far he has destroyed every toy within days of giving it to him since puppyhood. (Kongs included)

    Just a side note on the Altoids, if they contain Xylitol don't use them. A very small amount can cause hypoglycimia in dogs very quickly if injested.

  2. He's destroyed Kongs too? Wow! Have you tried the "Extreme" Kongs (the black ones) or the blue ones that they sell on k9 sport websites for police dogs?

    I do use the Altoids tin, not individual mints, so we shoudl be fine. Next time we do it, I'll double check that I've wiped it down enough (or that it doesn't contain Xylitol). That's some nasty stuff.