Whole Dog Journal's Blog September 13, 2016

Playing Hide and Seek with the Dogs - Everybody Does It, Right?

Posted at 11:47AM - Comments: (35)

This is going to sound a little bananas. I think you guys can take it, however.

The most fun thing I’ve been doing lately with my dogs is playing hide and go seek. I’m a behavior geek anyway – I love watching dogs (and other animals) work and play and interact – but I can’t tell you how entertaining it is for me to watch my adolescent dog learning how the game works, and try to anticipate my hiding strategies.

The house that I use as an office has three bedrooms upstairs. Sometimes, my husband and I rent them to students who attend a local trade school. In the past couple of years, though, we’ve had various relatives staying in the house on and off. At the moment, no one is living here, so I have both three rooms to hide in upstairs and no one to watch me at this ridiculous game! (Lest this sound rich – my second house! – let me assure you that the area where I live is so economically depressed, that the mortgage on this house costs us less than rent on office spaces in town.)

And (at risk of sounding defensive), it’s not like I’m playing with my dogs all day; I’m just using the game on breaks, to both stretch my muscles and refresh my brain. I will admit I played a lot over the past couple of weeks, when I was working on the canned food review that will appear in the October issue. I put in some long days and nights on that piece! When I would get up from my computer to take a snack break or bathroom break, sometimes I’d sneak upstairs afterward, hide behind a door or curtain, or step into a closet, and then whistle for the dogs.

Otto, my older dog, has a poor nose and terrible vision (I think); his strategy has always been to listen for me. He runs up the stairs, and will stop in the hall, standing stock-still and listening for the slightest noise – a floor creaking if I shift my weight, or breathing (if I ran up the stairs too fast). If he hears something, he will race into a room and then stand still again. If I’m successfully quiet and still, he will sometimes be inches away from me before turning and running into another room to check on the noises there. Only after he’s checked each room for sounds, will he start using his nose to try to track me down, and it seems like he uses his eyes last of all. Sometimes he’s been sniffing practically at my toes before he recognizes the sight of me standing behind a door.

Woody, my adolescent pit bull-mix, takes exactly the opposite tack. He races about, looking first, and he’s quick to recognize the sight of even just a part of me that might be unconcealed – my elbow sticking out from behind a curtain, for example. Only if he can’t spot me after a quick survey of each of the rooms will he slow down and start using his nose.

Interestingly, given that dogs are supposed to be such brilliant smellers, both dogs seem to use their noses last.

Woody, a fraction of a second before his "Gotcha!" expression

One evening, standing in shadow in a closet that has no doors on it, I watched, fascinated, as both dogs stood just feet away from me, trying to use their noses to work out where I was. They had already run from room to room and Woody hadn’t seen me, and given that the loud whole-house fan was turned on, Otto couldn’t hear me, either. Both dogs had worked out that I was in that room, but because the ceiling fan in that room was also turning at low speed, sending my scent around the room in waves, their noses were giving them mixed signals. I watched as both dogs stood, turning their heads this way and that, up and down, sniffing. It took a good 30 seconds of concentrated sniffing before Woody followed his nose and turned in my direction, and then his face lit up as he finally saw me.

Otto listening, Woody thinking

It’s the most fun when they light up like that. “Gotcha!” they clearly say, and erupt into wiggles and wagging. Otto starts play growling – he vocalizes a lot – and Woody leaps into the air and bashes about. “Good dogs! Wowie, you did it!” I tell them, and we celebrate as we all run down the stairs together. And then I go back to work!

Tell me I’m not crazy? You play hide and seek with your dogs, too, don’t you?

Comments (35)

I enjoyed your 'tails' of adventure very much. It seems a great break time game for all of you. Myself and Pearl, (dachshund, pekingese, who knows what else wonder dog) will be trying it tomorrow. We play our version of find it using her daily 'dental hygiene' chew. When she hears the words 'dental hygeine', she sits by the craft room door and waits for me to hide it and invite her in. She gets very excited at first, using her eyes to check every corner, and looking at me for hints. When she calms down a little and starts sniffing, she quickly has it. Then comes the claiming ceremony, which involves running to the living room, throwing the chew onto the carpet, rolling over and rubbing her back on it. Sometimes she misses her target and just wiggles on her back in the general vacinity. Then she chews it up. The whole business just makes her so happy. It makes us happy too. I can't wait to try hiding myself just to see her light up when she finds me. I won't be thrown down on the rug, though. Thanks for the great story.

Posted by: Suzzify | September 25, 2016 11:32 PM    Report this comment

I used to play hide-n-seek with my mini schnauzer. I started out by going into another room, then calling out "Smedley, come find me!" I made my hiding spots progressively more challenging for him. We had so much fun!

Posted by: rlkosek | September 19, 2016 6:59 AM    Report this comment

I played hide and seek with my schipperke pup, who loved the game.
However, she stopped showing interest around the age of three; maybe it wasn't challenging enough for her anymore. Now that it's been brought to may attention again, I will attempt to teach my 2 recent rescues the joy of the game.

Posted by: winthrop | September 19, 2016 5:27 AM    Report this comment

Thank you for this blog Nancy,
I just tried hide and seek with my German Shepherd Elfie and it took her a few minutes to find me, twice. She had to come back to have a better 'look'. I am just reconnecting closely with Elfie who has recently had to share her big garden with my son's two dogs, who have come to live in the big house, while I've moved into a Granny cabin on same property, for 6months. I am trying to keep her tired with street walks twice a day to help decrease her hyper activity (both anxiety and aggression) around the other dogs. She's already playing well with the other Shepherd but not so with the little Shitsu/Chinese Powderpuff, who we are keeping out of Elfie's sight for protection. My dog and the Shitsu are both 5yrs and have both been dominant dogs. Any suggestions before we try and foster out the little dog?

Posted by: Kerin %26 Elfie | September 18, 2016 11:48 PM    Report this comment

In our family, we call it "Hide and Go Dog" and it is just as popular with the grandchildren as it is with our golden retriever Violet. We have a version where one of us hides and calls Violet in a high voice, leading to general confusion and quizzical looks from her until we give her more verbal clues. Variation two is hiding five toys with a small biscuit while Violet "hides her eyes". Huge excitement as she races around tracking the treat. She has to move fast before the three year old helps her find it and picks up the treat. It's always a happy break in the day for Violet and her people. I think the scent work is valuable and tiring as well as fun.

Posted by: Nonnie | September 18, 2016 3:34 PM    Report this comment

I play hide n seek with my dog, a bichon frise. He loves the game... in addition to hide n seek. We play "find the treat"... as i hide treats around the house :)

Happy hunting!

Posted by: Sunshine4u | September 18, 2016 12:49 PM    Report this comment

My late black Boxador girl was the champ with using her nose. Even when it was blastedly cold outside, we would play hide and seek and she loved it. You could hear her screams of excitement when she was running to find me. And only twice in 8 years, could she not find me as my scent had fallen to the ground with the cold temperature and I was behind a berm. Our current Lab hasn't got the hang of using her nose and I have tried to make it very evident where the scent bottle is located. I do this when the weather is inclement and need a way to have her blow off steam and energy. It is interesting how each dog attempts to play hide and seek, whether with us or a treat bottle.

Posted by: LBNash | September 18, 2016 9:17 AM    Report this comment

I have two Great Danes, and I know they get bored, do you think they could learn to play like that. how do I start?

Posted by: rixci | September 17, 2016 6:03 AM    Report this comment

Not only have I played hide and seek, but I believe it is an excellent reinforcement tool for good recall.

Posted by: ShawnM | September 16, 2016 3:20 PM    Report this comment

I always played hide and seek with my late Westie Spencer. Now that I have my puppy Patrick, a Cairn, I will also teach him the game. We live in a ranch house, but they are still many places to hide. It is fun to watch them looking for you and great to see their face light up when they find you.

Posted by: debbyrae@sbcglobal.net | September 16, 2016 8:19 AM    Report this comment

We live in a biggish house in a complex of towers, but not good for hide n seek, unfortunately... Every room is sight of the other! I'd love to play games with my 3 pups!

Posted by: Kaynine | September 16, 2016 2:39 AM    Report this comment

Taz, my Golden Retriever has been trained to do Nosework so he is used to finding odors hidden in tins all over the house and in the yard. It has always amazed me that somehow that doesn't translate to finding me when we play hide and seek. He looks with his eyes first, and then resorts to sniffing if he can't see me. After he finally finds me we run back to the kitchen and get a little treat. Great fun!

Posted by: Dail | September 15, 2016 8:38 PM    Report this comment

I have been playing hide and seek with my two mini schnauzers for years now. They absolutely love the game. My husband will keep them in his office and give me a minute or so to go hide. I always take a squeaking tennis ball with me. When hubby opens the door and says "Where's mommy?" they will come ripping out and 95% of the time will find me almost within a minute just by their amazing sense of smell. Once in a while I will find a new hiding place and they will search the house running from room to room looking for me. When they are in another room, I will squeak the ball once or twice and they will instantly change direction and come running to find me. It drives them nuts when I squeak the ball but they cannot find me. But they always do and go nuts with barking when I reveal myself. One time I hid outside the front door and they were searching and searching for me. It drove them crazy that they kept hearing the faint squeaking sound but could not find me. But they eventually came to the front door and saw me through the window and pretty much told me "hey, that's not fair, you were totally out of bounds"! I like the hiding treats game so I think I will try that, I'm sure they will love it too.

Posted by: Dianne E | September 15, 2016 8:29 PM    Report this comment

YES! We play this often with our German Shepherd and Retriever. Years ago this was a favorite of a female GSD that was my heart dog. She would sometimes reverse the game by doing the hiding! This consisted of her sticking her head into a bush while her tail wagged madly as I would walk about saying "where is Duchess? Where could she be?? "...after a bit I would "find" her and great joy would ensue...such a happy memory of such a special dog.

Posted by: dogsdolls | September 15, 2016 8:16 PM    Report this comment

When our dog became so good at finding rawhide or treats in the house, I started hiding them outside. We have about 1/2 acre with bushes and trees. I'm amazed at how good he has become even though he is definitely not a "nose" dog. His tail never stops wagging as he searches.

Posted by: GSMontana | September 15, 2016 7:31 PM    Report this comment

My Therapy Dog Spidey loved to play COME FIND ME! He'd "DOWN, STAY" while a child, with treat in hand, hid. To begin the fun, the child would shout "Spidey, come find me!" Spidey would take off running while I, on the opposite end of the leash, comically sprinted to keep up. Spidey could sniff and find him or her in a classroom full of students. Even kids who feared dogs enjoyed this game.

I recently adopted a (formerly abused) shelter dog after Spidey passed. Though Oz will never become a Therapy Dog, he has learned to trust my grandchildren by playing COME FIND ME (treats included)!

Posted by: MyBonnieDesigns | September 15, 2016 7:29 PM    Report this comment

I play this with my Samoyed, in fact just this morning. It's so funny watching her looking around and getting all concerned because she can't see me. Then when she finally finds me she's all excited. Guess I never grew up:)

Posted by: Iceypro@hotmail.com | September 15, 2016 7:04 PM    Report this comment

Our 3 year old All American mutt (border collie/pit/mystery terrier mix) Frannie hasn't learned hide and seek yet, but she LOVES to play 'go find it.' We adopted her in the winter and she is not one for the snow, so I had to find a game to keep her happy. First I started with hiding treats, then rawhide bones, then toys, and now, random things. I have her sit down and smell the item I'm hiding, then I make her "WAIT!" while I leave the room and hide it somewhere in the house (I've even hidden things in the yard when the weather is nice.) Then I call "Go Find It!" and she comes racing around the corner, nose down, raring to go. I adore the look she gives me when she makes excited eye contact with me as she is running toward the hunt - it's like "Aha! You know I'm gonna find it!" She is such a perfectionist, sniffing every book on the bookshelf, every pillow on the couch carefully...and sometimes she goes off on tangents and I do have to give her a little hint if she goes too long and gets frustrated. Usually moving into the room (or part of the room) where it's hidden will do the trick. When she grabs it, she again will make eye contact with me as if she's saying "Bingo!" before she runs off with whatever she's found - to eat it if it's a treat or to drop it on her bed if it's anything else. She could play the game for hours.

Posted by: Frannie'sMom | September 15, 2016 6:14 PM    Report this comment

My husband loves to play hide and seek with our two dogs, but sometimes the boys don't notice when he hides and makes the noise he uses to signal that the game is on. So I egg them on by saying, "Where's Daddy? Go find him!" That sends them tearing through the house checking every room, in closets, behind doors and furniture, everywhere they can think of until they find him. They love this game!

Posted by: DeborahBee | September 15, 2016 5:09 PM    Report this comment

My Brittany spaniel is quite a huntress and leads with her nose. Playing hide and seek with people would not be a challenge for her. However, what she likes is for me to shut her in one room and then hide small treats around the house in places that she can reach and is allowed to go. It can be under her bed or in a corner where she has to use her paw to reach it. It keeps her busy for a good hour and reduces her need for constant exercise outside. She's quite good at finding rats, raccoons and other small creatures as well, but that is a different story.

Posted by: vstarfire | September 15, 2016 4:03 PM    Report this comment

If you love playing hide and seek with your dog and watching their brains trying to figure it out, you should try K9 Nosework. Basically, you train your dog to find different odors (beginning with birch), and you place the hides where they can't see them. It is so much fun! I love watching them actually learning to use their noses, something you wouldn't think they would need to do. It was initially developed for shelter dogs because it's amazing in building confidence and problem solving skills, but it's grown to a nationwide sport. Whether you just do it for fun or do competitions, I highly recommend it.

Posted by: Veeda | September 15, 2016 3:19 PM    Report this comment

Sammy and I play this game, too, but he gets a treat when he finds me. And you're right - it's very funny to watch him not find me when he is just inches away. He's especially bad in the dark. He, too, seems to rely on sound first. I'd say vision second and smell third. Maybe our houses smell so much like us that it's not helpful?
We started with me sending him to his crate and I'd hide and then call "OK" (his release word). When he found me - I'd make little peeping noises if he got stuck - I'd make a fuss and give him a treat. Now he knows the game and loves to play. And it usually cracks me up.

Posted by: septembermary | September 15, 2016 2:02 PM    Report this comment

My Bella loves to play hide and seek but we do it a little differently. She has a favorite small throw blanket and I'll toss it over her head - keeping in mind I have a small 1-level house that's pretty wide open so she can't get hurt - and then dash off to find a hiding place. She usually has the blanket off in a matter of seconds leaving me to scramble pretty fast. She jumps up and down and wiggles around once she finds me and goes straight back to the blanket to do it again! I'm going to try it your way though, I think she'll have even more fun with that! Thanks for sharing, it was a good chuckle!

Posted by: FranP | September 15, 2016 1:35 PM    Report this comment

My Carolina Dog doesn't like hide and seek or peek-a-boo. All my other dogs loved it; and it was great exercise on a rainy day. When I hide and call him, he looks for me; but when he finds me he just looks disgusted. Because I fooled him? If I peek around a doorway at him, he looks at me for a minute, then he just goes away. My other dogs barked happily and ran to "smoke me out." In every other way, he is a happy, very playful dog. Odd.

Posted by: myprince | September 15, 2016 12:30 PM    Report this comment

I have never played it with my dogs before, but I'm definitely going to try! I have a puppy, an adolescent, and a half blind, half deaf senior. Should be fun for everyone.

Posted by: dipoficat | September 15, 2016 11:09 AM    Report this comment

That was absolutely precious and I really enjoyed reading it. You give great advice on pets and I appreciate it which is why I am now subscribing to the Whole Dog Journal.

Posted by: cmart39 | September 15, 2016 11:03 AM    Report this comment

Yep! Spencer does not hide from us on purpose, but we play 'go find' with each other a ton! When I hear my husband come in from outside with the dog, he'll say 'go find Debra' and that is my clue to hide. Sometimes, I will call for my husband from upstairs and he will not answer and I have two thoughts: 1. he is in a heap on the floor and cannot speak or 2. he is hiding from Spencer and does not want to give his location away. A few seconds later, he will erupt in laughter and tell me how he surprised the dog... again. The most laughter in our house comes from laughing at (also with) each other, or the dog... hope the same is true for your home.

Posted by: Debra Lee | September 15, 2016 10:58 AM    Report this comment

We have a little shi-tzu who is the joy of our lives. She doesn't much care for hide and seek, but loves to play a peek-a-boo game. She will jump up on the bed, race around in circles, give me the evil eye and her play growls. This indicates she wants to play - and it begins. I grab the lap afghan and throw it over her and then try to grab her snout and she tries to grab my hand. Then she wiggles out from under the afghan and repeats the process. If I do nothing, she will romp over to me and start pawing at my hands until I join in. We will do this for 30 minutes or so (until one or the other gets tired) and then we snuggle a bit, after which I go and start dinner. She is such a treasure!

Posted by: SilverLady | September 15, 2016 9:36 AM    Report this comment

Our 13 yr old Golden plays hide and seek, but she starts the game, not me.
When I go out to check the mail she goes out with me. We have a very long driveway, its over 100 yards to the mailbox and she is trained to wait at the house while I go to the street to get the mail.
She used to just sit and watch me, but a yr or so ago decided to make a game of it.
While I walk to the street she sometimes goes and hides and when I get back I have to look for her. Sometimes she will be hiding behind a bush or a tree, peeking through the bushes watching me or from behind a tree, or the garage or the house. When she hides behind a tree I can see her tail or rear not hidden, just her head is so she thinks I can't see her. I pretend I don't see her and will call out 'where are you Sunshine", then I will "find" her and she will get all excited and act like a young pup for a minute. Its pretty funny.

There is no question that dogs will play hide and seek with each other, have watched them do it.

Posted by: RTV | September 15, 2016 9:27 AM    Report this comment

We LOVE playing hide and seek! I usually spend a minute or so practicing our tricks, put them on a down stay, and move out of sight to hide. My house is small and they have figured out all of the hiding spots. They race to each possible spot, sometimes missing me because they are so excited, then race off to the next location. When they do find me, we 'party' with wiggles, wags, and 'roo-roos'. This has built a strong recall, a greater bond, and is just great fun!

Posted by: economydogs | September 15, 2016 9:22 AM    Report this comment

I do it all the time with Dolly, our 9 year old chocolate lab/kelpie mix. She absolutely LOVES it. We both have fun and I've been playing hid and seek with her since she was a puppy. I hide behind doors, in hallways, behind beds, etc.

Posted by: meldrape | September 15, 2016 9:18 AM    Report this comment

My son was having trouble getting his 9 month old puppy to come when he was called. He began playing hide and seek, he'd run around the house and when Charlie, the puppy, found him they had a happy reunion. Two results: Charlie now comes running when my son calls him, and my son has found a new fun game that he and Charlie both love.

Posted by: MarilynL | September 15, 2016 9:06 AM    Report this comment

Any hints as to the best way to teach them the game? Should I just hide and then call them?

Posted by: Ldbruno | September 15, 2016 8:57 AM    Report this comment

I love playing hide and seek with my dogs!! I'll hide in the shower, behind doors, in closets, next to the bed on the far side by the wall, under a blanket on the floor, etc. My husband will say "Where's Kimberly?" and the dogs start trying to find me or I'll do hide while they are outside. Their "normal" response to coming inside is to find me, so why not make it a challenge? I don't jump out and scare them. They just get a good loving up when they find me. I do have to give hints every so often if my hiding place is a good one.

Posted by: KimberlyO | September 15, 2016 8:34 AM    Report this comment

Playing hide and seek with the dogs sounds like great fun....I am going to try it. On another topic we adopted an old dog who could not see...cataracts....he had surgery and it was a great success. Just fyi in case Otto has cataracts.

Posted by: Olivia | September 13, 2016 12:30 PM    Report this comment

New to Whole Dog Journal? Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In