National Scavenger Hunt Day is on May 24, and what better way to celebrate than with your dog on your next walk?
Scavenger hunts are fun games that send you on an adventure to find specific items or complete a list of challenges to win. These can be as simple as a list of objects, or they can be a complex series of riddles for you to solve – you’re free to be as creative as you like!
If you’re ready to accept a scavenger hunt challenge for you and your dog, read on to learn how to prepare, what you and your dog can look for, and a few tips to help make it successful.
Why Have a Scavenger Hunt with Your Dog?
Scavenger hunts can be fantastic enrichment activities for your dog to help challenge their problem-solving skills and get their brain (and nose) working.
Hide-and-seek, “Find It,” scavenger hunts, and other scent work activities can give your dog an outlet for their natural hunting instincts. Plus, they’re naturally mentally stimulating.
Sniffing is also a naturally calming behavior for dogs, so a scavenger hunt can act as a great stress reliever if your dog has anxiety or simply too much pent-up energy.
They’re also a great way to keep walks interesting for dogs that are bored of the same routine, and they create fantastic bonding opportunities to build trust and communication with your dog.
How to Prepare for Your Scavenger Hunt
If your dog has never participated in a scavenger hunt before, or you’ve never incorporated games into their walks before, you may need to do some training before the big day.
Because you’re participating in a scavenger hunt, your walk may be longer than usual, so you’ll want to make sure your dog is healthy enough for prolonged physical activity.
You’ll also want to start playing scent work games at home and doing nose work training to get your pup comfortable with doing it outside on your walks.
You can start small by using one of your pup’s favorite toys. Hide it just out of their sight, then ask them to “Find It.” When they do, mark the behavior and reward them with a treat.
As they get better at finding the toy, you can increase the difficulty by hiding other objects or hiding the toy in more difficult-to-find locations.
Once your dog is comfortable with the concept, you can head out for your scavenger hunt walk (armed with lots of treats, of course).
What to Look for On Your Scavenger Hunt
The best part of turning your walk into a scavenger hunt is that you can be as creative as you want, and tailor the challenges to what you and your dog will think are fun!
You can add in unique challenges for yourself to encourage exploring new areas of your neighborhood, or you can hide items and treats along your walk that your dog would love to find
Here are a few fun items your dog can track down on your scavenger hunt:
- Fresh cut flowers
- A store giving out dog treats
- Animal footprints
- Sticks of a specific size
- Their favorite fire hydrant
- Hidden treats or toys you’ve placed in the grass
4 Tips for Having a Scavenger Hunt with Your Dog
Here are some quick tips to help make sure you and your pup have a fun (and successful) scavenger hunt:
1. Be Patient
If your dog has limited experience with scent work games or doing scavenger hunts, they’re likely to be confused at first or take a while to locate a specific item. Scent work is a skill, and it requires practice to master.
Be patient with your pup as they look around for the hidden items or treats, and give them the time they need to problem-solve.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Help Your Dog if They Struggle
While you do want to give your dog time to work through the challenge on their own, there will be times when they need a little help and guidance. You want this to be a fun experience for your dog and letting them get too frustrated can lead to negative associations.
If your dog is struggling to find an item and they’re getting overly frustrated, use your foot to point in the general area of the item. This can be the small hint they need to push through the challenge and find the item on their own.
If the challenge seems too difficult for your dog, you may need to start with smaller, easier tasks to build their confidence and skill before you tackle anything more difficult.
3. Take Their Lead in New Areas
If your scavenger hunt has led you and your dog to a new area, give them the opportunity to sniff around freely. Take their lead on where they’d like to explore and let them guide you around for a while.
Make sure to let them check out the new space without putting them into a heel or being too strict on their walk structure. Allowing your dog to sniff and explore is a great enrichment activity, and it helps to naturally calm them.
4. Always Mark and Reward When Your Dog Succeeds
Every time your dog successfully finds an item, mark the behavior and reward them. You can mark the behavior with a clicker, a specific word, or simply with a lot of praise and encouragement.
The more you reward them for their successes, the better your dog will understand what behavior you’re looking for – and the more confident they’ll become. The enthusiasm and praise you offer also makes the activity more enjoyable for your dog, so they’ll be excited to try it again.
Will You Celebrate National Scavenger Hunt Day?
National Scavenger Hunt Day is the perfect excuse to get out, explore, and have fun with your four-legged friend. A scavenger hunt can be as simple as bringing along a few treats to sprinkle around your neighborhood, or you can get creative and design unique challenges for yourself and your pup.
No matter how you choose to celebrate, the most important thing is to have fun with your dog and add excitement and enrichment to their daily routine. After all, that’s what National Scavenger Hunt Day is all about!
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