Last week we introduced fun toys and food games to help provide mental stimulation for your dog. But games played WITH your dog have the added benefit of transferring value to YOU. Why is this important? Because the key to successful training lies in having a strong relationship with a dog who is focused on you. That's love!
So get your game face on for some serious FUN and canine bonding ...
A solid recall is one of THE most important skills a dog should learn, and this fun game helps reinforce it! Two people with treats sit 10’ feet apart. One calls the pup and rewards with praise and treats, then the other. The distance can be increased as the dog realizes good things come when he responds to his name.
Many dogs enjoy chasing and retrieving and learn this game easily. If the dog doesn’t come to you, run the other way and throw another ball or toy when he gets closer. Once he catches on and is consistently returning, pause and ask him to “drop” before throwing another toy. If he doesn’t release it, hold one hand on his collar and the other on the object. Ask him to “give.” Calmly wait him out. (Without resistance he will quickly become bored.) As soon as he releases, throw it again as his reward.
This is a terrific outlet for the energetic dog and bonding activity if played correctly. The rules are simple: 1) Human controls the game (dog tugs only upon invitation with designated toys). 2) Dog releases on cue (teach “drop,” “give” or “mine” in advance). 3) Teeth on skin = game ends (immediately make a disgusted noise, drop the toy and walk away; your dog will quickly “get” that even accidental contact is a deal-breaker).
Dogs love to work, and teaching targeting or simple tricks is a positive way to channel energy into desirable tasks. Targeting can be taught with any object – held in your hand or placed on the floor – and the dog can target with his nose or paws. These tasks are taught by “shaping” the desired behavior through “clicker training” (a technique best learned in class!).But once you and your dog have mastered basic clicker training principals, learning new tasks goes much faster and becomes a game in itself – the possibilities are virtually endless!
We recently learned of a client who plays tetherball with her dog! This particular Aussie loves to jump in the air and bat the ball around the pole with her nose. We love stories like these!
Again, by playing games with your dog, YOU become a source of FUN and your relationship is reinforced.
Next week: Think your dog is bad? We’ll take a look at problem behaviors vs. behavior problems, and what you can do about them.
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Ask the Trainer: Renee Jetter, ABCTC, CPCT
Professional dog trainer; co-owner of Canine Craze Performance Center in Urbandale – an 18,000 sq-ft. dog training, daycare, boarding and events facility. Animal Behavior College, 2006 graduate.
Expertise: puppy development; positive reinforcement training; obedience; competition; agility; tricks; freestyle; scent detection; canine good citizen/therapy dog testing; Paws & Effect volunteer service dog trainer.