How to teach your dog the Snoot Challenge
by Tamsin Durston
The Snoot Challenge
Why teach your dog ‘The Snoot Challenge’?
You might think the Snoot Challenge is just a bit of fun – and it is! – but as well as having a really cool trick to show people, because the Snoot Challenge teaches your dog to put their face right into the small opening made by your hands, this can also help them learn to be handled around their face which is great for veterinary checking, and even learning how to wear a muzzle should they ever need to.
It’s also a great way to practice your training skills and is also a trick you can teach with a friend too, so team up with a pal and you can all have fun together!
How to teach your dog The Snoot Challenge
- Preparation makes perfect!
It’s important to start training in a quiet and calm place such as your living room – without any distraction, interruption or temptation - and when you and your dog are both happy and relaxed! You’ll both be able to concentrate and be successful! You’ll also need rewards ready for your dog and these should be something they really enjoy! You’ll need lots to begin with, so small tasty treats are a good idea.
- Using a lure
Luring means using your dog’s reward – the tasty treat - to guide them into the right position. This means they’ll get it right from the start and doesn’t involve any pushing or pulling which might hurt and/or make them worried about you! You’ll be using their treat to encourage them to move exactly where you want them to so training is totally ‘hands-free’!
- Luring them into position
You don’t need to say anything – take one hand and make a circle placing your fingertips onto the tip of your thumb. Show the circle to your dog and, using your other hand hold a treat on ‘your side’ of the circle, so they have to push their nose through in order to get to it! As soon as your dog’s nose pokes through the circle say “yes” and give them their well-deserved treat!
- Making sure your dog knows they’re getting it right!
You can say “yes” (or use a clicker) at exactly the time when your dog is doing what you want, and this tells them that their reward is coming right away! So, make sure your timing is spot on – saying “yes” as soon as their nose pokes through the circle - and always follow this up by giving your dog their reward. It might be more comfortable for them to back out of the circle in order to eat their treat and that’s fine - as they’ve earned it!
- Dogs learn by repeating things
Repeat this until your dog is quickly poking their nose through the circle whenever you hold out your circle-hand towards them – this shows they understand the quicker they pop their nose through, the quicker they’ll get their treat! If they’re struggling just have a break and come back to it – learning is not always as easy for them as we might think! If we take things gently and go at their pace they’ll be more likely to enjoy learning and remember what they’ve learned. Remember to say “yes” as soon as they poke their nose through the circle and follow this with their treat!
- Once you’ve practiced a lot, try without a lure!
Simply show your dog your circle-hand exactly as you did before but without holding the treat the other side of it! Once they’ve poked their nose through, be sure to say “yes” and to then produce the treat and reward them. If your dog struggles without the treat there, just go back to using the treat for a little longer before trying again.
- Make the circle bigger! Use two hands and get a friend to help!
Some dogs might find this easier right from the start! Once your dog is getting the hang of it you could use both hands to make a bigger circle for their nose! Ask a friend to hold the treat the other side to lure your dog’s nose through, remember to say “yes” as they do, and give their treat straight away.
Top Training Tips
- Make sure your dog is always having fun while training. If they appear to be worried about putting their face very close to your hands then teach something different instead like luring them around in a circle on the floor, following the treat in your hand as a guide, and throw the treats to them as a reward rather than expect them to eat from your hand.
- Take it slowly when teaching them so they’re happy all the while! Teaching your dog in small steps will help them to always get it right and giving them a break in between stages will mean they can come back to it afresh!
- There’s no need to place anything over your dog’s nose at all, as this might make some dogs worried! The good thing about your hands is that you can always move them apart very easily and quickly if your dog seems worried, and then simply teach something else instead if they are. However, if your dog is very comfortable placing their nose through your hands you might like to try introducing something circular for them to place their nose into as an alternative. For example, this is a good way to help them learn to wear the types of ‘cone’ that vets use to help prevent dogs chewing wounds after surgery!
Dogs Trust Snoot Challenge Compilation
You can see the Dogs Trust dogs featured in the compilation here.
Enjoy your training sessions and have fun!