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!