Fun & Games

Play Training With Your Dog

Sharing your life with a dog should be fun. Training doesn’t have to be laborious or overbearing-there are many lessons that can be folded into play time. Here are a few of my favorites pastimes.

I’ve Got the Better One At least twice a day give your dog 5-15 minutes of interactive playtime. Select your dog’s favorite toy and buy multiples. In our house we use tennis balls for my lab and a stuffed squeak toy for our German Shepherd Dog. Toss one toy and praise your dog for chasing it down. Then play with the other toy as if you have the best one. When your dog comes wanting yours, insist on the four-paw rule, then toss the toy. Get the other toy, and do it again, and again, and again until your dog’s tuckered out. Each time your dog comes back to you for your toy, shout “Come*” just before you toss it.
Play this game with empty plastic bottles; kicking the one the dog is not focused on. When he focuses on your bottle, make him “Wait” and praising him for standing still.

Treat Cup Name Game Take some dog treats and break them up in a small Tupperware container. Shake the container and reward your dog until there’s a connection to the sound. Use the treat cup to play hide and seek, calling out your dog’s name. Say “Come*” as you reward and pet them.
Stand apart from other family members and send your dog back and forth using her name as well as the human names too: “Go to Lindsay!” “Go to Daddy.” If your dog is confused let them drag a light leash to guide them. Soon your dog will be able to identify everyone.

What’s in the Grass Go about your yard or open space, using a long line to give your dog freedom if unconfined, and pretend to find things in the grass. Pounce or dig or just pick up sticks: by not watching your dog you will peak his curiosity. When he approaches you say “Come*” and reward him.
* When you first teach the “Come*” command use it to highlight your togetherness—not separation and frustration.

Life is so serious. Let your dog training be fun!

Training Your Dog to Give You His Paw

Some dogs are naturally paw expressive: some need a little urging. Sometimes the real trick is teaching them to keep their paws to themselves! Regardless this is a fun trick that’s easy to learn.

* Get a hand full of your dog’s favorite treats or a toy. Put your dog on a light leash or hand lead for easy guidance.

* Kneel down in front of your dog. Encourage him to sit and reward him!

* Now you have two choices:
1) Fold the treat or toy in the palm of your left hand and bring it to his nose.
Press gently on his left shoulder muscle with your right thumb.
The moment his leg flexes, cup his paw in your right hand, say “Paw” and reward him.
Do this three times, then switch sides to determine if he’s a lefty or a righty!

2) Hide the treat or toy in your right hand and hold your hand down on the floor in front of him. If he paws at you say “Paw” and reward him immediately.
Gradually bring your hand up and turn it over so your fingers are facing up.

After you’ve got the hang of it, you can start being really creative: added High Five or Wave to your bag of tricks.

For this and other fun tricks read Sarah’s “Dog Tricks and Agility for Dummies.”

Play Training The Come Command

Come is difficult request: you’re asking your dog to leave something they’re enjoying and return to your side. While some dogs are responsive and prioritize their owner’s request, more act like self-absorbed children. Getting frustrated won’t help: staying positive will. Remember these tips as you begin to work on this command.

* The command “Come” is equivalent to shouting out “Huddle!” The ultimate invitation to reconnect.

* Staring while calling a dog can be confusing. Imagine my calling you to the kitchen in a foreign language: no matter how loudly I spoke or how often I repeated myself it wouldn’t be any more clear if I stood there staring at you.

* Start using the command when your dog approaches you: when he comes for meal, reward or affection say “Come,” and praise him. The command will highlight positive interaction instead of confusing separation.

*Use other words to call dogs to the car or indoors, such as “Car” and “Inside.” Use a treat cup to encourage a positive association.

* Play train this command. A light, happy approach is much more successful and lasting than heavy-handed, domineering, fear-based methods.

* Use a long line if exercising your dog in an unconfined space.

Looking for more Quick Tips on teaching this important command. Refer to Sarah’s Teach Yourself Visually Dog Training book for more on this command and others!