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How to Train Your Dog to Hunt for Easter Eggs!

Teaching your dog to hunt for plastic eggs filled with stinky treats is fun way to enjoy the holiday -- and a great introduction to scent work.

Sassafras Lowrey  |  Mar 22nd 2016


Spring has arrived, and with it comes my second-favorite holiday: Easter. Holidays are big at our house, and I incorporate the dogs into all seasonal celebrations. For Easter, that includes dressing Charlotte and Mercury in silly outfits — they’re great sports about it! Last year, my search for squeaky eggs came to an end. This year, I found Peeps for dogs! These treats need to be in my dogs’ Easter baskets.

We also always have an egg hunt for humans and an egg hunt for dogs at our house, which is similar to the stocking stuffing trick I taught at Christmas. I trained Charlotte to pick up Easter-themed toys or plastic eggs filled with stinky treats (never leave the latter with dogs unsupervised, as they can crack and be harmful if swallowed) and place them in an Easter basket. It’s an easy and fairly quick trick to teach, but one that impresses friends and family.

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Mercury and Charlotte in their Easter outfits. (Photo by Sassafras Lowrey)

Scent games like this are great mental stimulation, fun, and a fantastic way to build upon your dog’s natural smelling skills! If you would like to teach your dog to hunt for Easter eggs, here’s how:

  1. Designate a package of plastic Easter eggs just for your pups. I like to have specific ones for the dogs, because no one likes dog-cookie coating on their candy! It also lets you keep track of which are dog eggs are for pups and which are people eggs, which might contain chocolate and other treats dogs shouldn’t have.
  2. Buy the stinkiest treats you can find and put a few in each egg.
  3. If your dog isn’t familiar with scent games, put the plastic egg out in plain sight and click or reward (depending on your training style) when your dog shows interest in the egg. I always open the egg myself because I don’t want Charlotte and Mercury to end up chewing or cracking them into dangerous pieces. I reward my dogs for pawing at the egg or barking when they find it.
  4. Give your dog the treat! And watch her gobble it up!
  5. As your dog gets more familiar with the scent game, start hiding the dog treat-filled eggs in increasingly difficult locations, and start associating a cue to go search for the egg. Eventually, you can send your dogs out of the room, hide all the eggs, and tell them to find them one by one. Reward with treats during the hunt so they don’t get frustrated and bored. Also be sure to keep track of how many eggs you hide so you don’t accidentally leave some scattered throughout your home.

Not only is this a super-fun holiday game, it’s also a great, low-key DIY introduction to the canine sport of scent work.

squeaky easter eggs (photo credit Sassafras Lowrey)

Charlotte with her squeaky easter eggs. (Photo by Sassafras Lowrey)

Holidays are lots of fun to share with your dogs, but be sure to keep their safety in mind as you enjoy the festivities. You don’t want the fun ruined by a trip to the emergency vet or by a dog slipping through a door and getting lost.

Be sure to watch your dog around all the chocolate bunnies and hidden candy treats. Even if you aren’t hiding candy at your house, stay aware of what your dog gets into on walks over the next few weeks. Lots of neighborhood parks host official and unofficial egg hunts, often using plastic eggs filled with treats, and when the kids don’t find them all, your dog might! While a few jellybeans probably won’t cause any long-term damage to your dog (I’m still definitely not encouraging anyone to give jellybeans to their dogs!), chocolate is of course very toxic. Not to mention, the foil wrappers for Easter bunnies and other holiday candies can be harmful if swallowed.

festive easter outfit (photo credit by Sassafras Lowrey)

Festive Easter outfit. (Photo by Sassafras Lowrey)

This year, my dogs’ Easter baskets are going to include some new cookies, the doggie Peeps (don’t think I will be able to resist those), and probably a stuffed Easter bunny for my toy-loving Charlotte.

How about your dogs? What will your pups be finding in their Easter baskets? What are other ways you incorporate your dogs into the holiday fun? Let us know in the comments!