Sources and additional reading
We only use credible, science=based sources for our Discovery Kits, so you can rest assured that you and your dog are in good hands.
Here are a list of sources for the Smellscapes Discovery Kits:
Dog is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You by Clive D. L. Wynne, PhD
Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz. This is a perennial favorite
Dog Training Methods Affect Attachment to the Owner by Zazie Todd, PhD
Dominance Training Deprives Dogs of Positive Experiences by Zazie Todd, PhD
Crowdsourcing Alone-Time Alternatives by Malena DeMartini
Massage from MSPCA Angell
Basic Canine Massage with Narda Robinson, DVM from American Aninmal Hospital Association
The Paint Kit
Details: 3 -ounce tubs of Arteza finger paint, 2 8"x8" canvas boards, a vinyl reusable bag, a canvas zipper pouch, masking tape, and 3 wood tongue depressors. Assembled by Dogby in Boston, MA.
Care & Cautions: We chose non-toxic, washable finger paint for this kit to make it as low stress for you and safe for your dog as possible.
Store all supplies out of your dog's reach.
Cleaning: Work on an easily wipable, non-porous surface and use warm, soapy water to immediately clean up any spills. Wash out the vinyl bag as soon as you finish, so you can reuse it.
The Tug BearLearn more
Details: Wild Knots Bear, size M/L, a stuffed animal with a continuous, twisted rope and squeakers inside from The Kong Company in Golden, CO.
Care & Cautions: Dogs can get overexcited and bite or scratch while playing tug. If your dog's energy level gets too high or their impulse control gets too low, stop the game.
It's normal and expected for your dog to rip or shred stuffed animals. As they do, remove any stuffing, squeakers, or small pieces that come off. If your dog has a history of ingesting non-food objects, don't let them play with this toy unsupervised.
Cleaning: Spot clean with soap and warm water.
The Can Toy and StopperLearn more
Details: Can Toy, size large, a stuffable chew toy made in the USA from FDA compliant, non-toxic and biodegradable rubber and Unstoppables Stopper and Stand, made from FDA compliant, non-toxic nylon from Sodapup in Boulder, CO.
Care & Cautions: Designed to withstand power chewers up to 60 pounds.
Always remove the stopper before giving to your dog.
Always inspect your food puzzles for signs of damage and supervise your dog while they use them.
Give your dog personal space away from other human and canine family members while they use their food puzzle and pick it up as soon as they finish to minimize the risk of aggression. Never approach your dog while they have a food puzzle or try to take it from them.
Cleaning: Both items are diswasher safe. For the Can Toy, we recommend a quick scrub with a bottle brush first.
The Target StickLearn more
Details: Terry Ryan Clik Stik, a telescoping target stick from Karen Pryor Clicker Training in Boston, MA.
Care & Cautions: Keep away from your dog while not in use to prevent chewing.
Cleaning: Wipe with a damp cloth to remove any treat residue or drool.
The Meaty Baby FoodLearn more
Details: 2 4-ounce tubs of Vegetable Beef baby food from Gerber Products Company in Florham Park, NJ
Care & Cautions: Use as a food puzzle filler or meal topper. Once opened, store any leftovers in the fridge and use within 5 days.
See full ingredient list at the link below
The Target Stick
Troubleshooting for the Training Plan
If you are having a hard time teaching your dog this association, it might be that they could already tell that you were about to give them a treat, so the click didn't add any more info. Here are a few ways to help with this:
- Vary the amount of time between each click. Wait 5 seconds, then 20 seconds, then 2 seconds, then 12 seconds, then 5 seconds again.
- Keep your hands on your thighs to prevent you from reaching for the treat too soon.
- Move to a more boring environment to ensure that your dog is paying attention to you and not distracted.
If you can't get your dog to engage in the game at all, there are a few potential causes.
- Your dog is distracted. If this is the case, move somewhere quieter and/or use more delicious treats.
- Your dog is freaked out by the target stick. If they turn their head away or freeze, this is likely the cause. Put the target stick on the ground, sprinkle 10 treats around it, and let your dog eat them. When you try again, hold your hand low, so the target stick is coming at them from below, not above. Reward them for any slight movement towards the stick.
- The click scares them. Watch for flinching or freezing. If this is the case, practice the click=treat training for a couple of days, holding the clicker behind your back to muffle the sound as your dog acclimates to it. If you don't want to wait, you can use a word like "yes!" in place of the click for now.
Your dog is stuck between steps.
We design our training plans to gradually build on what a dog can already do. But sometimes, what is gradual and easy for one dog feels monumental and challenging for another.
- Repeat the easy step 10-20 times.
- Try the harder step again.
- If they still can't get it, make your own middle step. For instance, if your dog can bop the target from 1 foot butnot 2 feet, you could try 1.5 feet. Or, you could try presenting it at 1 foot and then as they reach for it, pulling it away so they ultimately do move 2 feet.
- Try the hard step again.
Your dog was getting it, but now they lost it.
Backsliding is a normal part of the learning process. Just keep dropping back to easier steps until your dog is succeeding again. It can be demoralizing for you to have to go backwards, but it really is your fastest path forward.
The Tug Toy
The unofficial rules of tug
These rules can help keep everyone safe while you play this exciting, high-energy game. They also give you a great way to encourage your dog to work on their impulse control and thinking through their excitement.
- Sit (or a different polite behavior) to ask to play the game.
- Wait until your are told "take" to grab the toy.
- Release the toy when you are told "out."
- Never put your teeth on human skin.
Check out this handout from the Center for Shelter Dogs for instructions on teaching your dog the rules of tug.
The Can Toy
Food puzzle safety
Food puzzles can bring out aggressive, possessive behavior in even the friendliest of dogs. It's a normal aspect of their behavior as the descendents of scavengers.
Follow these guidelines to keep your family safe:
- Use physical barriers like doors and baby gates to keep kids and other pets away while your dog is solving their food puzzle.
- Some dogs want complete privacy while solving a food puzzles, others will want you to in the room for companionship. Even so, avoid approaching them head on, getting between them and the puzzle, or touching it.
- Always pick up the puzzle and any uneaten food and treats when your dog finishes and before you let others back into the space.
- Never take a puzzle from your dog. Wait for them to walk away or offer them a trade by tossing a better treat a 4-6 feet away and seeing if they voluntarily give up the puzzle to go get it.
- If your dog gives you a stink eye, freezes, growls, or bares, their teeth while they have their puzzle, back up and give them space.
- Reach out to Dogby or a certified dog trainer in your area for help if you are concerned about your dog's behavior around food puzzles.
All about food puzzles
If you are new to food puzzles and want to learn more about them, this article can get you started.
The Paint Kit
Teaching your dog to make a paw painting
The Hot and Cold technique (also called shaping by dog trainers) outlined in the guide can seem confusing becuase it's completely different from most training approaches. But, it's really not too tricky once you give it a try. Watch these videos to see it in action and read the tips below if you need help.
- Early on, don't try to hold out to see if you can get something better from your dog, reward them for any paw movement or interest in the canvas.
- Work on clicking the exact instant that your dog does what you want. The more precise you are, the easier it is for them to figure out what to do.
If your dog won't show any interest in the canvas at this stage, it might be because it freaks them out a little. You have two options here: shift to snuffle painting or continue with this method, being patient and assuming that it's going to take a few sessions on a few different days for them to warm up.
- Wait until your dog has intentionally pawed at the canvas 10+ times in a row before you experiment with getting them to step on more of the canvas. They might walk and stomp more on their own.
We have a few different ways to encourage them to step in different spots, and you can try them all to see what works for you:
- Rewarding steps in new spots more and steps in old spots less.
- Placing treats in different spots so they approach the canvas from different angles
- Moving yourself around so they come at it in different ways.
Finish any remaining bits
- You don't need to keep pushing on if you or your dog are getting done. Just like Kona and me, you can switch to snuffle painting or finish things up yourself! We did so after about 5 minutes.
- Don't forget that you have a second canvas! So you don't need to put too much pressure on yourself or your dog while you try this one.
- If you do snuffle paint, a crumbly treat will encourage your dog to spend more time and lick more, which will smear the paint better.
Bonus Painting Technique: Digging
If you want or need another painting option for your dog, you can try digging!
- Prep your canvas, put it in the bag, and tape it thoroughly to the floor.
- Place a treat on it, show it to your dog, then cover it with a washcloth or hand towel.
- Excitedly encourage your dog to paw and dig for it. They might not realize that it's allowed. As soon as they paw at all, praise them and give them a treat.
- Keep encouraging them to dig through playful behavior and praise, rewarding them with treats everytime they paw or dig. If they uncover the treat, let them eat it and put another one down.
More ways to play the Hot or Cold game
Now that you're getting the hang of the Hot or Cold game, which is also called "shaping" in dog training lingo, you've got a whole bunch of ways you can play with your dog.
- 101 Things to Do with a Box - This classic training game encourages your dog to think outside the box (pun intended). Put a box in front of them, and use your Hot or Cold skills to encourage them to interact with it. Reward your dog for any interactions with the box, but if they start to do the same thing over and over, withhold their rewards to encourage them to try something new. Learn more here.
- Teach your dog to shake - Sit facing your dog and watch their front feet carefully. As soon as you see any movement in a front leg, click and hand your dog a treat. Repeat until they catch on and are moving their feet intentionally. Once your dog is consistently lifting a paw at least a few inches off the ground, you can offer your hand for them to place their paw into.
This video from Sarah Walsh has a great explanation of shaping and suggestions of a few games to play.