10 Quick and Fun Training Games to play with your dog

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Playing these games with your dog will help:
  • build value in staying close to to you, 
  • improve their focus on you
  • help self control, and even
  • strengthen their recall!

1) Angel of the North:
This teaches that eye contact with the human means awesome things happen.
Put a treat in both hands and hold them out like the Angel Of The North - when your dog gives you eye contact, mark it and reward by releasing one of the treats for you dog to go and get. Repeat a few times with the food in different hands - you can also move your hands in a circular motion while doing this too!

2) Catch me if you can:
This game teaches that running back to the human when they call means the chasing fun continues (remember dogs LOVE to chase).
Imagine a triangle circuit (or mark it out with cones). Drop a treat at the first point and while your dog is eating it run to the second point. Recall your dog and when they get to you, mark and reward by dropping the treat and when they are eating it, run to the third point and repeat. Repeat five times and then throw some treats for them to sniff for and find.

3) Catch:
Improves focus and teaches that the fun happens with you.
Teach your dog to catch something soft and chewy - using a piece of food large enough for them to see. and for you to handle. It doesn't matter if they do catch it, praise them for effort. Once they are good at catching you could use toys too!. This is not suitable for young puppies.

4) Find-it:
Searching and sniffing games release happy hormones in your dog's brain and gives your dog an outlet for an essential natural behaviour
All dogs benefit from sniffing games and searching and finding gives them something positive to focus on - do easy food searches and treasure trails to start with and gradually build it up. You can use toys to find too.

5) Follow the food
Teaches a dog to focus, be calm and follow a piece of food.
Take a piece of tasty, smelly food and hold it just in front of your dog's nose. If they try and grab it just calmly put it behind your back and then try again. Now move the food lure away from your dogs nose slowly to your right and they should follow it. Mark and reward after a short distance with the food you used as a lure. You only need to move it 30cm or so to start off with. Repeat this step, but move the lure to the left. Now repeat creating more movement in circular motions and try luring them through your legs too.

6) Let's Go
This reinforces that when you follow the human you get access to the good stuff.
Teach your dog to follow you using the let's go exercise training plan and then practise in lots of different contexts. Mark and reward your dog for turning with you and following you.

7) Get it!
This game reinforces that turning away from distractions and back to you means the fun stuff happens again!
Throw a piece of food out - tell your dog to "get it" - when they eat the foot and turn back to you tell them "nice" and throw another piece of food to a different location (in front, to the side, behind you - keep varying the location). Repeat several times and then finish with a scatter of food at your feet.

8) Hooman Hotspot
This teaches that orientating to the human means "even better things happen" than moving away from them
Throw a low value piece of food away from you and ask your dog to "get it" , call them back to you and reward them with a higher value bit of food straight to their mouth. Place a low value piece of food out again, and then reward them at you with a high value piece of food again. Your dog is learning that the really good stuff happens at the hooman not away from them!

9) Puppy Push-ups
Teaches a dog to focus on you and listen to you and builds stamina.
Once you'd a really strong "sit" , "stand" and "down" you can chain these behaviours together in different sequences. Try chaining three together and mark and reward after the third behaviour is completed correctly!

10) Through the legs:
Great for teaching that disengaging from the environment and engaging with the human means fun happens!
Throw a piece of food a little way away to start the game. Now call your dog's name and when they run towards you, throw a piece of food through your legs for them to run through your legs to get it. Turn and throw another piece of food through your legs and repeat.

Game rules:
  • Start off playing the games in quiet places and gradually build up the level of distraction.
  • Play in short three minute bursts to prevent over arousal or your dog getting bored.
  • Finish each game by releasing your dog and throwing some food to find.
  • Play at home first before gradually building up to playing them where there are more distractions.
  • Using a training line helps you to bridge the gap between your dog being on leash to being able to enjoy some off leash freedom. If you are struggling with your dog's recall and are worried about letting them off lead, a simple training line is the answer.
Happy training!

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