Sisko, pictured to the right, knows what those plastic Easter eggs contain and no, it’s not chocolate. The Easter egg hunts I set up for my dogs have small tasty dog treats inside. Hunting for those eggs is great fun and helps include the dogs in family celebrations.
If you already have Easter egg hunts for your children, you may want to also do one for the family dog. However, since chocolate can make dogs sick (and can even be toxic) two Easter egg hunts need to be set up: one for the kids with candy, and one for the dogs with dog treats. Don’t do both hunts at the same time.
An Easter egg hunt is something you and your dog will do together. You can teach your dog what this new game is and at the same time, you can prevent your dog from getting too greedy with the eggs. Plus, you’ll have fun playing together.
Canine Easter Egg Hunt Rules
When you choose the plastic eggs for your dog’s Easter egg hunt, do so carefully. Try to find eggs that are large enough that it would be difficult for him to swallow should he grab one in excitement. Some dogs catch on to this game quickly (there are treats in those eggs) and you don’t want your dog to choke on an egg.
Put a tiny piece of treat in each egg. Since he’ll be finding several, use little treats so he doesn’t end up eating too much. You can also use his breakfast in the eggs rather than treats; just divide his breakfast among them.
For his first egg hunt, place the eggs in mowed grass or a flat surface so they are easy to find. When he gets good at the game, then you can hide them in more difficult places. Place them under bushes, in tall grass, behind a lawn statue, or inside a bucket on its side. This is why treats with a strong scent are best.
The rules of the egg hunt are easy. Keep your dog on leash, then walk him to the first egg and talk to him in a happy tone of voice, “Sweetie, what’s that?” Point at it to attract his attention to the egg. When he touches the egg with his nose or paw, you can pick it up and give him the treat. If he doesn’t touch it immediately, get him excited about the egg and touch it yourself so he does touch it. When your dog understands the game, then let him lead you to the eggs and praise him for finding each one.
Group Egg Hunts
Group egg hunts can be great fun. Dog trainers, dog clubs, or others who work with a number of dogs and their owners can host egg hunts. Kindred Spirits Dog Training in Vista, CA has been having Easter egg hunts every spring for many years. At each of the group dog training classes on Easter week, plastic eggs containing treats are spread over the training yard grass. There is also an added bit of excitement; in several eggs, instead of a treat there is a note saying, “Prize.” The dogs who choose those eggs get a dog toy!
The rules are the same as above except that several dogs and their owners are hunting at the same time. The owners help their dogs hunt but, at the same time, are making sure their dogs don’t get too competitive with the other dogs. Dogs who get over-stimulated are taken to the side for a short time-out until they calm down.
It is important that the sponsor of the group egg hunt emphasizes to the dog owners – who also tend to get competitive – that the goal is not how many eggs their dog touches. Instead, the goal is to teach the dog the game – find and touch the egg. The ultimate goal, of course, is the dog and owner having fun together.
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