Fun and Useful Tricks To Teach Your Search Dog

Here are a few new skills you can practice teaching your dog that you will find very useful out in the field.

Lifting up over a fence

Those fences are found in the middle of nowhere. Topped with horrible rusty barbed wire that must be just crawling with tetanus. Leave the worry out of how to get your dog safely over it. Teach your dog to tolerate being picked up and passed to another person. I have seen this used on several occasions on encountering nasty obstacles. All you need is a pocket full of treats to make it fun and a friend who wants to work on his biceps.


Sometimes it is just easier to go under a fence. Teach your dog to crawl under a broomstick you progressively lower each time he successfully ducks under. First try luring him with a treat, then wait until the dog does it by himself before giving the treat. No treats for jumping over, just raise the bar and try again. Yeah, I made a funny.

Jumping up on top of an object

Very useful if you need your dog to get up on top of something. I love using this trick when I need to pick ticks or prickly seeds of my dog without having to bend down. I just ask him to hop up on a nice stump or boulder.

Being carried by you

Search dogs can get hurt. Don’t find out your dog cannot stand being carried when you need to get him back to base.

Wearing a Muzzle

Even the sweetest dog will turn into Cujo if he is hurt and scared.  Get him used to a cage muzzle by wrapping foil around it and pour some nice broth in the end and freeze.  Remove the foil and hold the muzzle out while your dog tries out his new muzzle popsicle.  Move on to smearing peanut butter on the end and practice putting the muzzle on and adjusting while he happily eats his treat.

Ride a litter

Don’t just think about evacuating your dog on your shoulders, put your team and equipment to work and get him used to riding in a litter. Twelve hands are better than one!

Learning to Ignore BOOM!

Do you live out in the nice quiet country? Get him used to the loud noises that may occur during a search. Simply fill your pockets with the tastiest treats you can find (I like hotdogs diced to the size of peas) and go on a field trip. Go to a fire station, construction site, or near train tracks and with leash tightly in one hand, feed your dog tiny treats one at a time when sirens wail, trucks roar, or trains blast by. If your dog is too scared, start out far away and move in a bit closer on each field trip. Always make sure to end on a good happy note!

Where is your toy?

Practice a bit of search and rescue in the house from the comfort of your sofa. Teach your dog not only to find people, but to find his toys hidden around the house. Start easy and let him watch you hide his toy at first. Move on to more advanced stages by hiding the toy up high or in cabinets and other inaccessible places. This will teach your dog to look high and low for the source and to work out complex scent pictures.

Finding your Keys

Tie some fabric or leather to your keys for easy doggie retrieval and teach your dog to look for your keys. Now that is useful!


Zig and Zag around obstacles can be a great way to prevent your dog from going around one tree and you the other when on a leash.

Leave it

Yummie! Dead Skunk! Teach your dog to leave things alone that he should well, leave alone.


If your dog is a spaz like mine, he dashes around at full speed through brambles and quicksand alike. Teach your dog to navigate treacherous terrain by using the slow command.

Walk it

Much like the slow command, teach your dog to carefully walk up, on, and down obstacles slowly rather than leaping. I love using this trick when there is a nice thick downed tree providing a path across water.


Wouldn’t it be nice if your good dog stays in his crate after the door comes open, or patiently sits at the door before going outside? Here is a great trick that will keep both of you safe.


Danger ahead! Teach your dog to hit the brakes when you tell him to stop. My dog screeches to a halt and hits the deck when I yell Platz!

Show me your belly

Roll over halfway there buddy, I wanna see some tummy! I love using this trick to check my pup’s paws and legs for cuts. If it is really hot outside, pouring water on a pups inner thighs will give him a good cool down. It is also popular for tummy rubs.


We are told to drink before we are thirsty. It’s a useful thing to teach your dog to drink when you ask him too. I will set an alarm and make sure to water my dog at timed intervals. That way he can stay nice and hydrated no matter what.


What better way to make friends than to teach your dog to meet new friends politely. A good ol shake of the paw will do the trick.


Have a dog nervous person around? Warm their hearts with an adorable wave.

Go to your place

What if you get stuck somewhere waiting around with no crate in sight? Teach your dog to lay next to or on top of an object like your camp towel anytime you tell him to go to his place. A nice down stay after that does the trick.

Paws up on back of truck

I learned this little gem from a border collie running team-mate. In order for her dog to get his search vest on, he had to put his paws up on the back bumper of the car and keep them there so she could easily put on and adjust his harness. No bending over, I am a fan!

Bobbing for toys or treats

You never know what clues might have been dropped in the water. Teach your dog to snorkel for goodies by dropping sinking toys or frozen broth ice cubes in a kiddie pool.

What cute tricks have you taught your dog that has turned out to be useful in the field? We want to hear from you!

2 Responses to “Fun and Useful Tricks To Teach Your Search Dog”

  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences here on your blog.

  2. Celeste Says:

    I love this, i don’t have a search dog, but these are all great tricks for any dog to learn!

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