I have taught articles using several different methods.
(1) Tie down board
(2) Around the Clock
(3) Extension of a "Find It" Game.
Though the 3rd way was the most fun, in practice it just didn't work well. (It wasn't easy for example, to "simplify" it in any way when the dog made a mistake).
(4) Also I know of a "scented lid" method that seems interesting. And might be another fun method to try one day.
In the end what I have found what works best is to START with the AROUND THE CLOCK method and than at week 3 in that system to transition to using the TIE DOWN BOARD.
Let me tell you why. Both those techniques have pros and cons, and by using them in that combination they compliment each other in such a way that the dog really learns the exercise.
For AROUND THE CLOCK you really need to get the DVD (which you can buy at
The technique is very precise and it is really best if you learn it from the DVD and not just from someone explaining it to you. The pros of this technique are the dog learns to search the pile in a methodical manner (start at a certain place and move around the pile in a specific way). The other pro is that it is IMMEDIATELY clear to the dog that they should be scenting from day one (squeeze cheese is uses on the bar of the article which is faded to less and less and finally the article is flipped so the cheese is no longer visually obvious to the dog, who now begins to smell for it).
The cons of this technique is that after week three (or four) the corrections for bringing back the wrong article are decently harsh (physically taking the dog to correct article laying them down next to it etc....). I NEVER do these corrections, instead when my dogs understand how to methodically work the pile of articles (yes all of them) and they have learned that this game is about scenting (about week 3 of AROUND THE CLOCK) I switch to the TIE DOWN METHOD.
The TIE DOWN METHOD also has pros and cons, the cons are that the dog can solve the problem (finding loose article) in a number of ways, only one of which is sniffing for it, others include looking to see which article is loose, feeling to see which one isn't tied down, etc.... That is why I don't start with this method.
The pro of the tie down method is that the corrections are VERY mild and are done by the board (wrong article is tied down and won't come up). I can stay positive and happy and if the dog makes a mistake the board just doesn't let him bring that article back.
So I teach my dog to search the pile and that this game is about sniffing using first 3 weeks of AROUND THE CLOCK, and than I transition to the TIE DOWN BOARD so that all corrections for making a mistake are mild corrections that come from the wrong article being tied down and not from me.
When my dog understands and can find an article placed anywhere in the pile I begin to un-tie articles till all are un-tied and than I fade the board. I don't use the tie down board for more than 2 weeks since using it too long makes it harder to fade and also gives dogs the opportunity to learn different ways to solve the "which article is free" problem. So all told I do AROUND THE CLOCK for 3 weeks and tie down board for 1-2 weeks.
I have found that this combo of methods works best.